Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of moon rocks on their return to Earth which have since been kept locked in a vault inside the Johnson Space Center. Few have had the privilege of seeing them in person and fewer still have been allowed to touch them. NASA will now be opening up some of the samples in decades so that geologists can run experiments on them using the latest technologies.
It may just be a coincidence that NASA has decided to do this as the 50th anniversary of mankind’s first footsteps on the moon approaches. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’ landed on the moon on July 20th, 1968.
“It’s sort of a coincidence that we’re opening them in the year of the anniversary,” said NASA’s Apollo sample curator Ryan Zeigler, adding that “But certainly the anniversary increased the awareness and the fact that we’re going back to the moon.” There is no doubt a renewed interest in the moon with the White House directing NASA to put astronauts on the moon once again by 2024.
Lunar samples weighing a total of 842 pounds were brought back from the Apollo missions. Some of the soil and rock samples were vacuum packed on the moon so they have never been exposed to the Earth’s atmosphere. Others had been frozen or stored in gaseous helium after they arrived on Earth. Staff at the lab is now trying to figure out how to remove the samples from their containers and tubes without contaminating them.