Lunar sample curators Charis Krysher, Juliane Gross, and Andrea Mosie were involved in extruding Apollo 17 sample 73002 from its container.
Credit: NASA

 

Scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas have opened untouched samples brought back from the Moon during the Apollo era.

The rock and soil samples will be studied as part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, which is leveraging advanced technologies to study Apollo samples by using new tools that were not available when the samples were originally returned to Earth.

Apollo 17 imagery from December 1972 mission: Sample 73001 – 809 grams; Sample
73002 – 430 grams. Core, double drive tube, unopened until November 5, 2019. Credit: Apollo 17/NASA 

Nerve-wracking

Rutgers University scholar Juliane Gross was one of three women scientists who opened the pristine Apollo 17 sample on November 5th. Apollo 17 moonwalkers collected the lunar specimens in December 1972.

“It was such a humbling experience to be part of this and totally nerve-wracking because we couldn’t make any mistakes,” said Gross, an associate professor at Rutgers in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. “But it was absolutely mind-blowing and so exciting at the same time.”

Gross said in a Rutgers University statement that it was hard and awkward to open and extrude the core sample. The reason: “everything had to be done inside a nitrogen-gas filled glovebox and we wore big gloves that made it hard to feel and grab tools,” Gross said. “But we had practiced a lot with a practice glovebox, so we worked really well together and all went smoothly with opening and extruding the core.”

Location of double drive tube at station 3, Apollo 17.
Credit: Apollo 17/NASA

New insights

The ANGSA multigenerational and multidisciplinary team will systematically examine samples 73002 and 73001, part of a two-foot long “drive tube” of regolith, collected by astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan from a landslide deposit near Lara Crater at the Apollo 17 site.

“The findings from these samples will provide NASA new insights into the Moon, including the history of impacts on the lunar surface, how landslides occur on the lunar surface, and how the Moon’s crust has evolved over time,” adds Chip Shearer, science co-lead for ANGSA in the Lunar Curation Laboratory at NASA’s JSC and a visiting scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). “This research will help NASA better understand how volatile reservoirs develop, evolve and interact on the Moon and other planetary bodies, in an LPI statement.

NASA’s Artemis return humans to the Moon by 2024 program.
Credit: NASA

 

 

The ANGSA team is functioning as participants in a low-cost lunar sample return mission. This is a vital link between the Apollo Program and the future exploration of the Moon by the Artemis Program.

Leave a Reply