October 4, 2022

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NASA opens a 'new' sample of the moon that was brought to Earth in 1972 and kept closed for 50 years

NASA opens a ‘new’ sample of the moon that was brought to Earth in 1972 and kept closed for 50 years

It was designed by Alex Meshik, Olga Pravdivtseva, and Rita Parai of Washington University in St. Louis. Francesca MacDonald of the European Space Agency (ESA) led a team that built the special instrument to gently pierce the lunar steel tube without gas leakage.

Together they have created and carefully tested a unique system for collecting the very valuable materials – gaseous and solid – contained in the container.

On February 11, the team began the month-long delicate process of extracting steel from the tube by first removing the protective outer casing and trapping any gas that would be inside.

Ziegler and his team knew what gases should be in the outer channel, and everything was as expected. The tube did not appear to contain “moon gas,” indicating that the inner tube seal may have been still intact.

On February 23, the team embarked on the next step: a week-long operation to puncture the inner tube and slowly collect the moon’s gases that are hopefully still inside the tube.

After gas extraction is complete, the ARES team will prepare to carefully remove soil and rock from the tube, likely later this spring.

Now that ANGSA 73001 has been literally tapped, there are only 3 unopened lunar samples left, one of which is airtight on the moon. When will those samples be opened?

“I doubt they’ll wait another 50 years,” curator Ziegler said. But he added that it would be interesting to be able to compare those samples directly with the samples that the Artemis astronauts will return from the moon. NASA plans to return humans to the Moon by 2025.

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This article is based on a press release from NASA and Telex from Agence France-Presse.