Astronomy & Space

NASA selects 9 groups to check unopened Apollo moon samples

March 14, 2019 • By
Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan approaches the crew’s lunar rover throughout one among three sample-collection moonwalks in the course of the remaining Apollo mission in 1972. Unopened samples from that flight and two others are being made accessible to 9 analysis groups. Picture: NASA

NASA has chosen 9 analysis groups to analyse pristine samples of lunar soil returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts and left untouched for the previous 5 many years. The U.S. house company has allotted $eight million for the analysis below the Apollo Subsequent Technology Pattern Evaluation program, or ANGSA.

“When the previous generations did Apollo, they knew that the technology they had in that day was not the technology we would have in this day,” mentioned NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “So they (decided) to preserve samples, because they knew there would be a day when better technology would be able to better assess the history of the moon.”

Bridenstine made the announcement whereas unveiling NASA’s $21.5 billion 2020 finances request from the Trump administration, a finances that helps the company’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2028.

“We have nine teams that will be examining nine unopened samples that have come back from the moon,” the administrator mentioned. “We feel like we can do that because there are more lunar samples on the horizon where we’re going to be able to learn more than we’ve ever learned about the moon before. So I’d like to thank the Apollo generation for preserving these samples so that our generation can have this opportunity.”

The samples have been collected in the course of the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. An Apollo 17 pattern, for instance, can be studied by the College of New Mexico’s Institute of Meteoritics, which can obtain about 800 grams (1.eight kilos) of fabric from a core pattern that was sealed in a vacuum container on the floor of the moon.

The group will measure the chemical constituents of the pattern and “prepare us to explore and sample potential resources for future human activities,” mentioned analysis assistant Charles Shearer. “Further, this will be the first analysis of a core through a lunar landslide deposit and will further our understanding of the timing, triggers, and dynamics of these events. The deposit may contain new lunar rocks never sampled before.”

One other pattern can be assessed by Darby Dyar on the Planetary Science Institute.

“This project brings massive state-of-the-art synchrotron and infrared analysis to bear on tiny lunar samples to unlock the secrets of the lunar interior,” mentioned Dyar, a senior scientist at PSI. “We will use state-of-the-art synchrotron technology and a mapping FTIR spectrometer to measure gradients of volatiles ­ hydrogen and oxygen – preserved in lunar glass beads.”

Such beads are shaped by “rapid cooling of droplets from explosive lunar fire fountains, like those seen in Hawaii,” she mentioned. “We will map changes from core to rim that reveal hydrogen and oxygen pressures in the lunar interior and before, during, and after eruption.”

One other analysis group, led by Jessica Barnes, an incoming assistant professor on the College of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, will search for traces of water in a 110-gram (four ounce) pattern that was collected by the Apollo 17 crew. Like the opposite samples, the soil was moved right into a freezer inside a month of the astronauts’ return.

“The question we want to answer is, are we measuring the true Moon signature? Or are there terrestrial influences that have affected the samples during their storage?” Barnes mentioned. “The beauty of a frozen sample is that it’s been kept curated in a different way from the samples stored at room temperature. We could not do this research without opening the frozen samples.”