Fifty years after NASA received samples of the lunar surface, scientists have begun studying them in preparation for the upcoming Artemis mission to the Moon’s south pole. The samples were brought back to Earth by the Apollo 17 astronauts in December 1972. From then on, the samples were kept in a freezer. However, the process of moving samples from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, or another similar facility, was not easy. It took scientists four years to do this.
To this end, scientists began to design and retrofit a facility to process frozen Apollo 17 samples. They tried a new approach that they believe could be applied to future lunar missions. The research is part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program, or ANGSA.
NASA’s Julie Mitchell, who led the project, said That they started it in early 2018, and had to overcome a lot of technical difficulties. This was envisioned as a test to create a facility for cold sample processing in the future.
Mitchell said the project would not just facilitate the ambitious artemis program, which aims to create a permanent human presence on the Moon, but also future sample return and human exploration of the Solar System. In the coming years, NASA There are plans to bring back rock samples from Mars that are being collected by its Perseverance rover.
Michelle said she feels blessed to be able to contribute in a small way by developing the ability to collect these materials, bring them home safely, and curate them for the long term.
According to the people currently working on this research, there’s something special about these lunar surface samples that haven’t been analyzed in nearly five decades. Some lunar samples were already shown to contain amino acids, which are essential for life on Earth. Scientists are now trying to trace their origin and where they exist in the Solar System.