NASA has been in the process of opening a lunar sample that has been vacuumed and vacuumed for nearly 50 years.
The mysterious specimen was collected during the last manned mission of the US space agency to the moon in 1972.
The sample from the Apollo 17 mission will be exactly 50 years old on December 13 this year.
Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmidt collected a lunar sample by hammering a 14-inch tube into the lunar surface.
They also collected another unsealed sample.
Both tubes were filled with moon rocks and dust.
The two samples were returned to Earth, and the sample that was not vacuum sealed was opened in 2019.
The vacuum tube is more interesting because it may contain substances called “volatile matter”.
Volatile substances are gases that evaporate at ordinary temperatures.
They had escaped from the unsealed lunar sample tube but they might have been in the vacuum sealed tube.
NASA has waited until now to open the sealed sample because it wanted to take advantage of future technology.
“The agency knew that science and technology would advance and allow scientists to study materials in new ways to address new questions in the future,” explained NASA’s Laurie Gleese, director of the Planetary Science Division.
Ryan Ziegler, curator of the Apollo sample, added: “A lot of people are excited.
“Chip Shearer of the University of New Mexico proposed the project over a decade ago, and for the past three years we’ve had two great teams develop the unique equipment to make it possible.”
The exact process of opening the specimen began.
The outer seal was opened but the inner seal was still intact.
Scientists will puncture the sample tube first and collect any gases that may be trapped.
After the gas is extracted, the soil and lunar rocks will be removed.
Scientists plan to do so in late spring.
“Each component of the gas analyzed can help tell a different part of the story about the origin and evolution of volatiles on the Moon and within the early Solar System,” said Francesca MacDonald, who leads the project at the European Space Agency.
The painstaking work is being done at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astronomical Materials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division.
The center is home to a selection of extraterrestrial samples collected by NASA.
This article originally appeared the sun It is reproduced here with permission.