NASA scientists have opened an untouched rock and soil sample from the Moon. This sample was brought to Earth as a part of the space agency’s final mission under its Apollo programme. It has been over 40 years since the sample was collected.
The sample was collected by astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt who were aboard the Apollo 17 mission. Another sample from the same mission will be opened in January, NASA said in a statement.
NASA opened the 4cm wide sample tube as a part of its Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative. Under the ANGSA initiative, the agency will be using advanced technologies to study Apollo samples, thus using tools which were not available when the samples were collected.
The space agency states that the sample will be observed with advanced techniques like non-destructive 3D imaging, mass spectrometry and ultra-high resolution microtomy. These will allow for a coordinated study of the unopened samples at an unprecedented scale.
“We are able to make measurements today that were just not possible during the years of the Apollo programme,” said Sarah Noble, ANGSA programme scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.
“The analysis of these samples will maximise the science return from Apollo, as well as enable a new generation of scientists and curators to refine their techniques and help prepare future explorers for lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.”