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Tech & Science NASA just cracked open a pristine Apollo moon rock sample

05:35  07 november  2019
05:35  07 november  2019 Source:   cnet.com

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NASA /James Blair. Back in 1972, NASA astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt worked a tube into the moon , gathered up rock and soil samples , and brought them back to Earth as part of the Apollo 17 mission. The space agency had the foresight to sock away samples from Apollo missions for later

And for the first time in decades, NASA is about to open some of the pristine samples and let geologists take a crack at them with 21st-century technology. “It’s sort of a coincidence that we’re opening them in the year of the anniversary,” explained NASA ’s Apollo sample curator Ryan Zeigler

a group of people looking at an oven: Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross opened lunar sample 73002 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA/James Blair© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross opened lunar sample 73002 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA/James Blair

Back in 1972, NASA astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt worked a tube into the moon, gathered up rock and soil samples, and brought them back to Earth as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

The space agency had the foresight to sock away samples from Apollo missions for later study once technology had advanced. Now's the time for some of these samples to step into the science limelight.

NASA researchers opened up sample 73002 on Tuesday as part of the Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative. It will be divided up for study. This is the first of two Apollo 17 samples ANGSA will examine.

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Collected during Apollo 15, a 3.5 billion years old basalt rock similar to rocks formed around Hawaii, is displayed in a pressurized nitrogen-filled For the first time in decades, NASA is about to open some of the pristine samples and let geologists take a crack at them with 21st-century technology.

Fifty years ago, Apollo astronauts collected their first moon rocks . And as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first landing mission approaches, NASA has decided to open a still-sealed, never-studied moon rock sample that has been carefully saved for decades, waiting for technology to advance.

"Studying these unopened samples may allow scientists to gain insight into the origin of the lunar polar ice deposits, as well as other potential resources for future exploration," said NASA in a release on Wednesday.

a close up of a light: This is sample 73002 viewed with 2019 technology (above) and 1974 technology (below). NASA© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. This is sample 73002 viewed with 2019 technology (above) and 1974 technology (below). NASA

NASA shared an image showing an X-ray computed microtomography scan of sample 73002 in 2019 compared with an X-ray scan from 1974. The clarity of the 2019 version shows how far imaging technology has come.

"The analysis of these samples will maximize the science return from Apollo, as well as enable a new generation of scientists and curators to refine their techniques and help prepare future explorers for lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond," said ANGSA program scientist Sarah Noble.

NASA hopes Earth's stash of moon samples will soon be expanded with the help of its Artemis program. The agency plans to send humans back to the lunar surface by 2024. That's a tight timeline, but scientists would love to have more of the moon to examine sooner rather than later.

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