The moon has been keeping secrets for billions of years, but we’ve had samples of lunar regolith right here on Earth that haven’t even been looked at since they were brought back from the Apollo missions almost 50 years ago.
These samples will finally speak to a number of teams selected from both NASA’s research centers and several university laboratories. The space agency’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program has awarded a total of $8 million to nine teams selected by its Planetary Science division, who will use these samples to study aspects of the moon’s geology up close.
Some of the samples were frozen or stored in helium. One vacuum-sealed sample from Apollo 17 has never even been exposed to our atmosphere, and six of the teams will be the first humans to touch it since mission astronauts brought it back to Earth.
That sample that has never even breathed the air of our planet is 800 grams of regolith still in the same “drive tube” that was pounded into the moon’s surface to extract a core of material that has preserved more than just the rocks and moon dust. It hasn’t emerged from NASA’s Johnson Space Center since it touched down in 1972. What is especially cool about this sample is that the actual stratigraphy from below the surface is still intact, which could hold valuable information about how the moon formed, as well as the time and duration of certain geological phases.
“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the…
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