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NASA Finally Opens Pristine Lunar Samples Brought Home by Apollo 17

Lunar mission


NASA Finally Opens Pristine Lunar Samples Brought Home by Apollo 17

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that it is finally taking a look at a previously unstudied lunar sample that was obtained during the Apollo missions in preparation for a return mission to the moon. After some 50 years in storage, the sample is being opened at the Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division, which is tasked with safeguarding, studying and sharing the collection of extraterrestrial samples, NASA said Friday.

In a statement, NASA said that when the Apollo astronauts returned with the samples in the early 1970s, scientists had the foresight to keep a portion untouched for future study. The space agency’s early scientists knew that at some point, science would advance to a level that would allow more insights to be extracted from the pieces of moon rock.

Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA, said the agency’s leadership knew even in the early 1970s that science and technology would evolve and “allow scientists to study the material in new ways to address new questions in the future.” 

Opened and studied was the sample tagged ANGSA 73001, which was brought back to Earth by the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972. It consists of a drive tube sample collected by astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, who was a geologist.

The Apollo 17 mission marked the end of the Apollo program and was the last time U.S. astronauts visited the Moon’s surface. 

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said understanding the geologic history and evolution of the moon will help prepare astronauts for the types of samples that may be encountered during the upcoming Artemis missions.

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Category: Space

Tags: ANGSA Apollo Artemis Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division Lori Glaze NASA space Thomas Zurbuchen