The vacuum-sealed container from 1972 will finally be opened to land on the moon

The punch tool that will be used to open the container.

The punch tool that will be used to open the container.
Photo: ANGSA Science Team

The planners of the Apollo mission were really smart. Recognize that future scientists will be better Richer scientific tools and insights, they have refrained from unlocking part of the moon samples returned from the historical Apollo missions. One of these sample containers, after remaining untouched for 50 years, is now set to open.

The sample in question was collected by Gene Cernan in 1972. The Apollo 17 astronaut was working in the Toros-Litro Valley when he hammered a 28-inch (70 cm) tube into the surface, which he did to collect samples from the Moon. soil and gas. The bottom half of the box is closed While Cernan was still on the moon. Returning to the floor, the enclosure was placed in another vacuum chamber to make a good measurement. Known as the Apollo 73001 sample container, it remains intact to this day.

But it is time to open this ship and investigate its precious cargo, according to A European Void Agency press release. The hope is that lunar gases may be present inside, especially hydrogen, helium, and other types of light gases; Analysis of these gases can advance our understanding of lunar geology And Sheds new light on how best to store future samples, whether they were collected on asteroids, the Moon or Mars.

Like I said, the planners of the Apollo mission were really smart—but they did not explain exactly how future scientists were supposed to extract the supposed gases from the airtight container. This task is now a responsibility Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Software (ANGSA), which manages these pristine treasures. In this case, ANGSA tasked the European Space Agency, among many other institutions, with figuring out a way to safely release this trapped gas, marking the first The time ESA participated in opening samples returned from the Apollo program.

European Space Agency scientists Francesca MacDonald and Timon Shield standing next to

ESA scientists Francesca MacDonald and Timon Shield stand next to the “Apollo opener”.
Photo: ANGSA Science Team

The task is not entirely clear. extraction technique in addition to making a hole in the container, MustAfter being able to introduce any contaminants. Furthermore, the team had to work with 50-year-old documents. In the press release, ESA spaceship EAC team leader Timon Shield said that some “properties of the sample container were simply unknown,” and that “building the instrument was a challenge.”

ANGSA has spent the past 16 months working on the problem, and the solution, dubbed “Apollo can opener,” is now ready. The sole purpose of the system is to puncture the degassing container, thereby releasing gases. free from border The gases will then enter an extraction manifold developed by a partner group of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The gases, if present, will then be distributed across multiple containers and sent to specialized laboratories around the world for analysis. The newly developed punching tool, dIt was delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in November, and will be used to open the Apollo 73001 sample container in the next few weeks, according to the European Space Agency.

“We are keen to see how well the vacuum container for the sample and the fragile gases is preserved,” explained Francesca MacDonald, science project leader and ESA contributor to the ANGSA project. “Each component of the gas analyzed can help tell a different part of the story about the origin and evolution of volatiles on the Moon and within the early Solar System.”

Most importantly, the ANGSA project serves an additional purpose. Lessons learned from this experience will inform the development of future sample return containers and protocols for use on missions to recover surface samples from asteroids or frozen water from the Moon and Mars. These ideas may be useful in the coming period VIPER mission To the moon, where is the NASA rover He will explore the western edge of the Nobile Crater near the south pole of the Moon in the hopes of uncovering and collecting it Water ice.

more: NASA has chosen a really nice place to land the upcoming lunar module.

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