Geologist Harrison Schmitt performs Moon tasks during Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
Credit: NAS

There are unopened treasures brought back by moonwalkers, lunar collectibles returned to Earth in 1971-72.

A new NASA program has been established – the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA).

The goal of the ANGSA program is to maximize the science derived from samples returned by the Apollo Program in preparation for future lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.

Specially curated materials

To achieve this, ANGSA is asking the lunar research community what kind of work can be accomplished on specially curated materials from the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 sample collections.

Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 mission, stands at the ALSEP deployment site during the first extravehicular activity (EVA-1) at the Descartes landing site.

The ANGSA program is considering only proposals that focus on the analysis of unopened vacuum-sealed Apollo samples; frozen Apollo Samples; and Apollo samples stored in Helium.

The Apollo missions collected 382 kg of rock, regolith (i.e., soil), and core samples from six locations on the nearside of the Moon. Today, just over 84% by mass of the Apollo collection remains in “pristine” condition within the curation facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texa

Astronaut David R. Scott, commander of Apollo 15, standing on the slope of Hadley Delta.
Credit: NASA

Wholly or largely unstudied

Although most Apollo samples have been well characterized over the years, there remain several types of samples that have remained wholly or largely unstudied since their return, and have been curated under special conditions.

Unopened vacuum-sealed Apollo samples: Nine “special samples” were collected in containers that had indium knife-edge seals to maintain a lunar-like vacuum, and three such containers remain sealed from Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

Frozen Apollo samples: Several Apollo 17 samples were initially processed under nominal laboratory conditions in a nitrogen cabinet at room temperature, but placed into cold storage (-20°C) within one month of return: six subsamples of Apollo 17 drill core, nine subsamples of permanently shadowed soils, a subsample of soil, and all of the lunar rock identified as 71036.

Apollo samples stored in Helium: Apollo 15 Special Environmental Sample Container (SESC) specimens were opened in a helium cabinet inside an organic clean room at the University of California, Berkeley. A total of 21 subsamples have been continuously stored in Helium since this initial processing.

Expected program budget for first year of new awards is roughly $3.5 million, with those wanting to take part in the ANGSA program required to send NASA a notice of intent (NOI), due June 22, 2018.


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