“NASA Unveils Pristine Moon Rock Samples from Apollo 17 for Study Ahead of Artemis Missions”
NASA recently opened a perfectly preserved rock and soil sample from the Moon, collected during the Apollo 17 mission. This is the first time in over 40 years that a sample from the Apollo era has been opened. The opening of these samples will help scientists practice techniques for studying future samples collected during the Artemis missions.
The sample was collected by Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, who drove a tube into the Moon’s surface to gather it. NASA’s Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative is using advanced technologies to study these samples with modern tools that were not available during the original Apollo missions.
Dr. Sarah Noble, ANGSA program scientist, said that modern analysis will maximize the scientific knowledge gained from the Apollo samples and help prepare for future lunar missions.
NASA has kept some samples untouched since the Apollo era to study them with more advanced techniques as technology progresses. The unopened Apollo samples were collected on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. Two of these samples, 73002 and 73001 from Apollo 17, will be studied as part of ANGSA.
Advanced techniques like 3D imaging, mass spectrometry, and ultra-high resolution microtomy will be used to study the samples at an unprecedented scale. These samples hold valuable information about landslides on the Moon, volatile substances trapped within lunar regolith, and the Moon’s history of impacts and crust evolution.
The opening of these samples will not only provide new insights into the Moon but also aid in preparing for future lunar exploration. The Artemis program aims to explore the Moon’s resources, such as water ice, which can be used for rocket fuel and oxygen. The study of these unopened samples may offer insights into the origin of lunar polar ice deposits and other potential resources for future missions.
NASA’s scientists and engineers, along with lunar explorers from the Apollo era, will collaborate to study these precious samples. This will bridge the gap between the first generation lunar explorers and the Artemis generation who will continue exploring the Moon and eventually reach Mars.
With new science instruments and technology demonstrations planned under the Artemis program, NASA aims to send astronauts back to the lunar surface by 2024 and establish a sustained presence by 2028. This experience will pave the way for the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.