Moon sample studied after decades in storage

Lunar sample processors
Apollo sample processors Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross open lunar sample 73002 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. (NASA Photo / James Blair)

For the first time in more than 40 years, NASA has opened up a pristine sample of moon dirt and rocks that was collected during the Apollo missions.

Scientists hope that a close analysis of the material from a 2-foot-long, nearly 2-inch-wide core sample will help astronauts get ready for a new series of Artemis moon missions in the 2020s.

When Apollo’s moonwalkers collected samples of lunar soil and rock, also known as regolith, some of those samples were tucked away at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with the expectation that analytical tools would improve over the course of the decades that followed. The idea was to keep the samples fresh until the proper time.

NASA says that proper time is now.

The first of the stored lunar samples, known as 73002, was pushed out of its container at Johnson Space Center’s Lunar Curation Laboratory on Nov. 5.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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