29Dec2019

Unopened Moon Dirt To Be Unwrapped Soon.

NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission, which landed humans on the moon in 1969. Six crewed landings between 1969 and 1972, during which astronauts collected 842 lbs. (382 kilograms) of moon soil and rocks.

 

Scientists from the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center prepare to analyze the Apollo samples for amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. (Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Molly Wasser)

Now, scientists have the opportunity to study those samples in greater detail, using advanced instruments. “We are using instruments that did not exist during early analyses of moon samples,” Jamie Elsila, an astrochemist in the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement. “Because our tools today are more sensitive, we can analyze things that are present in tiny amounts. We also now can separate chemical compounds from a mixture, making it easier to identify them.”

These newly delivered Apollo samples were frozen and have remained sealed for half a century, according to NASA. Elsila leads one of the teams that will study the samples of moon rock, also known as regolith, to identify the chemical composition in grains as small as a speck of dust. Scientists will use this information to better understand the chemistry of the lunar surface and the evolution of our solar system, according to the statement.

Elsila and her team will be working specifically with samples collected during the Apollo 17 mission of 1972. The lunar soil collected during that mission was from the area near the landing site, at Taurus-Littrow valley on the eastern rim of Mare Serenitatis.

Using the Apollo samples, the team will look for amino acids, which are simple organic compounds that are the building blocks of proteins. Unlike Earth, the lunar surface has no wind, storms or other geologic processes to cause erosion. Therefore, the samples collected from the moon will help shed light on the primordial chemistry of the solar system, according to the statement.

“We don’t have any rocks on Earth that are older than about 4 billion years old, so we don’t know exactly how much volcanic activity there was or how heavily Earth was bombarded by asteroids,” Barbara Cohen, a planetary scientist at Goddard, said in the statement. “Since the Earth and the moon formed together, we can use our findings from the moon to infer what happened on the early Earth.”   Source- Space.Com

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