NASA scientists will open and examine a 50-year-old sample of the moon. The results should help the US space agency prepare for new samples taken on the Moon, if the Artemis III mission ever sets foot on this celestial body again in 2025.
American astronauts took a sample of lunar rock and moon dust from the Taurus/Litro Valley on the Moon in 1972. Since then, this sample has been stored for fifty years in a special container, a tube measuring 4 cm by 35 cm, in Johnson Space Center in Houston.
By opening this sample now, scientists hope to gain more knowledge about what it takes to sample well. NASA plans to return to the Moon in 2025, with the Artemis III program. “Understanding the history and evolution of such lunar samples will help prepare us for taking such samples with Artemis,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Administrator.
The sample taken in 1972 was double stamped. The first seal was actually punctured on February 11, after which scientists closely monitored whether gases escaped from the steel. This meant that the second seal was not strong enough, but that turned out to be not the case.
On February 23, the second seal was broken, after which scientists closely watched the release of any gases that might have formed in the past 50. This is done using a more sophisticated technology than in 1972, which is precisely why steel has not been opened for 50 years.