NASA have opened up a flawless extraterrestrial Moon rock from 1972

Pablo Tucker
November 8, 2019

As part of the NASA Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, the sample is being opened and studied using tools that weren't available when they were first collected.

NASA has opened an nearly, 50-year old mint condition sample of lunar regolith from the final mission of the Apollo program, the Apollo 17.

Samples of lunar dust and rock returned to Earth during the Apollo missions quickly offered scientists new insights into the makeup of our Moon, but what do they look like under the microscopes of today?

Some samples returned to Earth on Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions have been kept untouched, all meant to be analysed with more advanced technologies than were available during the Apollo years.


"We are able to make measurements today that were just not possible during the years of the Apollo program", according to Sarah Noble, Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) program scientist at NASA. Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross opened lunar sample 73002 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The new sample analysis is in service of the Artemis program, a new push by NASA and other space agencies that aims to put a man and woman back on the moon by 2024. Looking further ahead to future Artemis missions, later Boeing landers "will use other fuel sources and include reusable elements", said the spokesperson.

The US space agency NASA is preparing to send manned missions to the moon by 2024.

To aid in opening the sample, researchers have used X-ray Computer Tomography (XCT) done at the University of Texas Austin to record a high-resolution 3D image of the regolith within the tube. The Moon rocks inside this tube have remained untouched since they were collected on the surface and brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts almost 50 years ago. "Our scientific technologies have vastly improved in the past 50 years and scientists have an opportunity to analyze these samples in ways not previously possible".


Earlier in the year, NASA announced the nine research teams from around the world that would examine the pristine samples. This is going to happen for the first time in the last forty years. Boeing says it can land astronauts on the Moon with only five "mission critical events" - such as launch, orbit insertion and others - instead of the 11 or more required by alternative strategies.

The sample was opened November 5 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The 73002 has been fully opened, and 73001 is set to be projected in January 2020, which both were collected in a two-foot-long tube from a landslide near Lara Crater on the moon.

"Boeing's integrated lander can also carry itself from lunar orbit to the surface without an extra switch stage or 'space tug, ' additional lowering launches and simplifying the steps to a successful landing", firm representatives wrote within the assertion.


According to the senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing Defense, Space, and Security, Mr. Jim Chilton, the "Fewest Steps to the Moon" was developed to approach the safest and direct path to the moon surface with minimum complexity, using the lift capability of SLS Block 1B of NASA.

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