Tuesday, 18 February, 2020


NASA to Study Previously Unopened Apollo Sample

Source Mooneydriver  iStock Source Mooneydriver iStock
Kristine Garrett | 08 November, 2019, 23:28

The 1.5-inch-wide (4-centimeter) tube holding the small stash of moon rocks and dust was sealed by astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt during the second of their three moonwalks on December 12, 1972.

This week, it's been revealed that scientists from NASA opened a sample that had been sealed and untouched for more than 40 years from back then.

But instead of immediately opening and studying the samples after they were brought back to Earth, NASA chose to wait for technological advancements to improve through the years. These include samples that remained sealed in their original containers, as well as some stored under special conditions, all meant to be opened and analyzed with more advanced analytical technologies than were available during Apollo. Most of those samples, which were gathered by 12 astronauts on six moon-landing missions, have been the subjects of past and present studies.

NASA shared an image showing an X-ray computed microtomography scan of sample 73002 in 2019 compared with an X-ray scan from 1974.

NASA envisions a system that includes a transfer vehicle to ferry a lander from a lunar-orbiting Gateway outpost to an orbit that's closer to the moon, a descent element that would put astronauts onto the surface, and an ascent element that would carry them back to the Gateway.

"Our scientific technologies have vastly improved in the past 50 years, and scientists have an opportunity to analyze these samples in ways not previously possible", McCubbin said.

Sample 73002-opened this week by Charis Krysher, who called the opportunity "an honor and [a] heavy responsibility"-requires several months of processing before parts can be distributed to the ANGSA team for testing". The researchers used X-ray Computer Tomography (XCT) to capture a high-resolution 3D image of the regolith within the tube to help them remove the sample from the tube. Under its Artemis program, NASA will send scientists with new equipment and technology to study the moon. Now, samples of the soil and rocks of the moon, which were collected in the last expedition of the Apollo program, will be studied. This approach shortens development time and lowers risk, enabling NASA to safely land on the moon's surface by 2024.

The sample opened on November 5, known as 73002, was collected from a landslide deposit near the Lara Crater on the moon.

Other NASA scientists also heaped praise onto the new testing of the samples. They will also gain a better understanding of how well Apollo tools worked, which will help with tool designs for future lunar missions.

"Using the lift capability of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B, we have developed a "Fewest Steps to the Moon" approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface", said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Space and Launch for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, in a statement. "This research will help NASA better understand how volatile reservoirs develop, evolve and interact on the Moon and other planetary bodies", Shearer added.

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