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NASA analyzes intact moon samples

The moon has kept secrets for billions of years, but we have lunar regolith samples here on Earth that we have not even examined since they returned from the Apollo missions almost 50 years ago.

These samples will finally be sent to several selected teams at NASA research centers and in several university laboratories. The lunar exploration and lunar exploration program of the space agency has awarded a total of $ 8 million to nine teams selected by its planetary science division, which will use these samples to study aspects of the geology of the planet. Moon.

Some of the samples were frozen or stored in helium. A vacuum sample of Apollo 17 has never been exposed to our atmosphere and six of the teams will be the first to touch it since astronauts from the mission brought it back to Earth.

The sample that never breathed the air of our planet is made up of 800 grams of regolith still in the same "training tube" that was pounded on the surface of the moon to extract a core of material that has preserved more than rocks and moon dust. It has not emerged from NASA's Johnson Space Center since it landed in 1972. What's particularly cool with this sample is that the current stratigraphy under the surface is still intact, which could contain valuable information on the formation of the moon, such 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 us deepen our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the moon and beyond," he said. said Thomas Zurbuchen, assistant administrator of Science at NASA. Mission Direction. "This exploration will bring with it new unique samples from the world's best laboratories."

While the moon may appear as a monotonous gray sphere dotted with craters, it is much more complex than is visible to the naked eye. NASA has brought back only samples from a handful of lunar locations. Our satellite expects a lot of other studies, as the space agency knows from remote sensing, which has revealed to scientists the complexity of what looks like a cosmic object of deceptive simplicity.

If the satellites have been able to identify rocks and minerals that have not yet been collected in orbit, who knows what we will find when we put boots on the moon.

"The returned samples are an investment for the future. These samples were deliberately kept so that we could take advantage of today's more advanced and sophisticated technology to answer questions we did not know we needed to ask, "said Lori Glaze, Acting Director. of NASA's Global Science Division.

Here is a preview of what Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Teams will explore:


Alexander Sehlke will lead a team to carry out an experiment that began 50 years ago to see how volatile substances such as water are stored on the Moon's radiation-laden surface.

Jessica Barnes of the University of Arizona will lead a team that seeks to better understand how minerals on the moon hold water through lunar minerals containing hydrogen.


Another team from NASA Ames, led by David Blake and Richard Walroth, will study the weather. NASA's Goddard scientists, led by Barbara Cohen and Natalie Curran, will examine the geological history of the Apollo 17 site by determining its age from the presence of certain gases.

Team leader Kees Welten of the University of California, Berkeley, and his researchers will study the effects of meteorites and micrometeorites striking the moon's head.

Darby Dyer will lead, at the Institute of Planetary Science at Mount Holyoke College, a team that will study the glass microbeads formed during ancient volcanic eruptions on the moon, in order to get a better sense of the future. 39 volcanic activity that occurred shortly after the moon. born.


At the US Naval Research Laboratory, a team led by Katherine Burgess will examine frozen samples from the moon and samples stored in helium to determine the effects of space exposure on airless bodies .

A team from the University of New Mexico led by Chip Shearer will study samples of a "cold trap" on the moon, where temperatures are low enough to freeze water. This is the first time that a sample of a cold trap will be studied in a laboratory on Earth.

(via NASA)

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