50-year-old Apollo Moon samples unsealed for the first time
Lunar rock and dust samples collected by the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972, which were “sealed for posterity” 50 years ago, were unlocked from their celestial time capsule in March.
On March 21 and 22, a team of NASA scientists unsealed the historic cache in what was described by the team as a very methodical, careful, very slow process.
Deputy Apollo sample curator Juliane Gross used “mock-up” rocks at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as practice for the handling of the lunar samples.
“We are the first people who got to actually see this soil for the first time,” Gross said in a March 23 news release. “It’s just the best thing in the world — like a kid in the candy store, right?”
Gross went on to say that the unpacking of the samples required a good sense of organizing, tracking all the tiny pieces and screws using highly specialized tools and equipment.
The samples were collected in December 1972 by NASA astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt and vacuum sealed in cylindrical drive tubes while they were on the Moon’s surface.
After being returned to Earth, the sample was stored in a second protective tube at Johnson’s lunar laboratory until their opening last week.
Some of the samples gathered were purposely left in a time capsule so future generations with improved technology could examine and gather more information about the Moon’s surface. NASA said Apollo 17 core sample 73001 was one of the last unopened Apollo-era lunar samples.
“We have an opportunity to address some really important questions about the Moon by learning from what has been recorded and preserved in the regolith of these Apollo samples,” Francis McCubbin, NASA astromaterials curator, said in the same statement.
NASA hopes the samples and gasses collected from Apollo 17 are able to provide information and details beneficial in preparation for the Artemis missions and beyond. The agency hopes new samples will be collected from the Moon as early as 2025 by astronauts on the Artemis 3 mission.
Video courtesy of NASA
Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.