NASA to open moon rock samples sealed since Apollo missions

NASA to open moon rock samples

NASA to open moon rock samples

For the first time, NASA is prepared to open lunar samples it has been preserving since they were collected during the Apollo missions between 1969-1972.

Hundreds of pounds of moon rocks are locked up at Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

Now - just weeks before the 50 anniversary of the first manned Moon landing - researchers will inspect the materials with the help of 21-century technology.

These preserved samples are a time capsule to the Moon's past, containing information that NASA will need as we begin to prepare for permanently inhabiting the Moon in the coming years.

"It's sort of a coincidence that we're opening them in the year of the anniversary".

'These Moon rocks are a treasure, and the science we can do with them is a genuinely unique opportunity, ' said Alexander Sehlke, a principal investigator for one of the selected research teams'. Gateway - as it's called - will support missions to the lunar surface, and the space agency is inviting companies to bid for contracts to build, launch and maintain the Gateway. The other teams will study samples from the Apollo 15 mission that have been stored in helium since 1971. During the Apollo missions which first saw man set foot on another astronomical body, the courageous space travelers brought back more than their fair share of artifacts when they returned to Earth. They are now practising with mock equipment and pretend lunar soil.

Zeigler noted in this context that in contrast to Apollo-era technology, current scientific instruments are much more sensitive.

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Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin laughing with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet after arriving back on Earth in July 1969.

"We can do more with a milligram than we could with a gram back then".

Wednesday, NASA held an industry forum to discuss the orbiting lunar outpost, which is part of a plan to land astronauts back on the moon in the next five years.

Armstrong was the main rock collector and photographer.

But distributing samples that have been sealed for almost half a century isn't as easy as just popping open a jar and handing them out.

The last three - Apollo 15, 16 and 17 - had rovers that significantly upped the sample collection and coverage area.

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