NASA will study pristine samples of lunar soil collected during the last mission “Apollo”


It has been almost a century since the last landing on the moon in the framework of the program “Apollo”, but the majority of lunar soil samples collected during this mission, all were in pristine condition. Now space Agency NASA is preparing to study a number of intact samples with the help of modern scientific instruments. The Agency believes that finally the time has come – the level of technology has reached such heights that provides valuable information about the composition of Earth’s natural satellite, on which to know earlier was simply impossible.

Among the samples that NASA is preparing to study, there is the soil of the valley of the T-T-littrov and his. The sample weighs about 800 grams and includes material not only from the top, but with deeper layers of the lunar surface, which were collected through a special tube astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan during the mission “Apollo 17”. This lunar soil is still not exposed to earth’s atmosphere and all this time were stored in sealed containers in the space flight Center. Johnson in Houston (state of Texas).

According to the New Atlas, in the framework of The Next Generation of Apollo Sample Analysis (ANGSA) space Agency NASA has selected nine research teams from different organizations (including space flight Center NASA Goddard) who will be entitled to study and analyze pristine samples of lunar soil.

According to Dr. Charles Shirra from the Institute of meteoritics at the University of new Mexico, the head of one of the groups which, along with five other teams of scientists will study the above sample, NASA chose the most opportune time for this study.

Astronaut Harrison Schmitt collects samples of lunar soil as part of the mission “Apollo 17”

“The goal of preserving lunar samples all this time was the desire to provide an opportunity for new generations of scientists to analyze the earth’s atmosphere intact lunar soil. 50 years ago we did not have such advanced analysis technologies that we have now. In addition, the modern idea of the moon is somewhat different from what people thought about the moon half a century ago. In 2020-ies with partners NASA wants to return humans to the moon. And how will it return and what exactly will engage people on the moon will depend on including what the results will show, this modern analysis of the lunar soil,” explains the expert.

What modern analysis of the lunar samples can tell us this, that he could not tell analysis of the same samples, if it was carried out in 70-ies? The researchers plan to use the different scientific equipment that will allow them to set the exact concentration of samples of water, gases and other volatile substances. The data obtained compare with the results of the first studies of the lunar soil, as well as data collected by the lunar orbiters in the more modern missions to the satellite.

“Over the past 50 years, a host of technologies that allow a completely new way to look at these samples. Mostly, of course, we are talking about a significant improvement in the accuracy and extent of research and development of isotopic analysis. For example, various tools and methods for electron and ion microscopy, particularly transmission electron microscopy, the method of focused ion beams and secondary ion mass spectrometry, allow for the observation and analysis of Angstrom level. These tools allow us to study and to study thin shells of volatile substances on the surface of mineral particles,” adds Shirer.

The expert notes that are especially useful modern methods of research and analysis can be for a detailed study of the lunar landslide deposits. In particular, they may allow greater accuracy to determine age of landslides.

“Improved accuracy of measurements allows us to more accurately establish the age of an important geological events on the lunar surface. In the case of samples which were obtained during the mission “Apollo 17″ we will be able to more accurately determine the age of the landslide deposits, as well as to find out more about what caused it,” says Sherar.

Other groups selected by NASA within ANGSA, will also investigate samples collected during the mission “Apollo 17”, as well as samples collected by the mission “Apollo-15”.

“The first generation of scientists and engineers of the days of the Apollo program is already over eighty. Our team from the University of new Mexico consists of people belonging to different generations: from the scientists who studied some samples of lunar soil back in the early ‘ 70s and ending with the students. This will be a great opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience from the first generation of lunar explorers to future generations,” concludes Shirar.

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