NASA Will Open a Time Capsule of Lunar Samples Taken Almost 50 Years Ago

The Apollo legacy is a living one.

nasa apollo 17 harrison schmitt
Eugene A. Cernan, Apollo 17 Commander

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, and here's another way its legacy lives on. There are lunar sample the Apollo missions brought home that still haven't been study. Now, NASA has decided to study these samples in full detail.

We’ve selected 9 teams to study pieces of the Moon that were gathered & sealed on the surface during the Apollo era. Stored untouched for ~50 years, I’m excited the samples will be opened for the 1st time to be studied by a new generation of scientists 1/2

— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ)

These three lunar samples, from Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17, will have nine teams of scientists focused on them. Six of these groups will be focused on just one of the samples: 800 grams (1.8 pounds) of material vacuum-sealed on the moon by Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan in 1972.

The last two people to walk on the Moon's surface, Schmitt and Cernan both enjoyed an on the surface and the (LRV) to help them cover a remarkable amount of ground while off-planet, traveling 22.92 miles (36.9 km). They were able to haul back approximately 110.5 kg (243.6 lbs.)of samples, which would become one-third of the total samples brought back to Earth by Apollo missions.

The sample from Apollo 17, , is widely considered to have the least chance of accidental outside contamination. Taken from the fallout of an avalanche, it will provide a chance to study rare lunar volatility.

When these samples returned to Earth during Apollo, NASA deliberately kept some sealed. It will be a thrilling day when these containers are opened in state-of-the-art labs & studied using today’s advanced & sophisticated technology. We'll answer new Qs we didn't know to ask! 2/2

— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ)

While many of the Apollo samples were studied at the time, some were left untouched with the hopes that scientific research would advance to study them with greater detail. They have been residing NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, since December 1972. According to NASA, the time to study them is now.

“Returned samples are an investment in the future. These samples were deliberately saved so we can take advantage of today’s more advanced and sophisticated technology to answer questions we didn’t know we needed to ask,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington, DC, in a

“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond, “ says Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. “This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth.”

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