Scientists at NASA have unsealed an untouched sample of Apollo moon rock returned to earth as part of US Space Agency's final mission of the Apollo programme. The sample was opened on November 5. It was collected on the moon by the astronauts of Apollo 17, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, who drove a 1.5-inch-wide tube into the surface of the moon to collect it and another sample was scheduled to be opened in January 2020, according to the NASA on November 6.
This is the first time in more than 40 years when a sample of rock and regolith from the Apollo era has been opened. The 15 ounces of the moon's material collected as part of a core sample taken near the rim of Lara Crater, had remained unopened since being brought to Earth 47 years ago.
The sample was opened as a part of NASA's Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, strengthening advanced technologies to study Apollo samples using new equipment that was not available when the samples were originally returned to Earth. Sarah Noble, a scientist of ANGSA programme at NASA headquarters in Washington said that they are able to make measurements these days which was not possible during the years of the Apollo programme. The analysis of these samples will allow a new generation of scientists to modify their techniques and help prepare future explorers for lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.
The technological advancements such as non-destructive 3D imaging, mass spectrometry and ultra-high resolution microtomy will allow for a coordinated study of the unopened samples at an unexpected scale.NASA will send a batch of new science instruments and technology demonstrations under its Artemis programme to explore the moon ahead of landing astronauts above the moon's surface by 2024 and establishing a sustained presence by 2028. The agency will try to leverage its Artemis experience to get ready for the next giant step sending astronauts to Mars.