Technology

NASA will examine intact samples of lunar soil collected during the latest Apollo missions

It's been almost half a century since the lastthe landing of a person on the lunar surface in the framework of the Apollo program, however, most of the lunar soil samples collected during this mission, all this time were in an intact state. Now NASA aerospace agency is preparing to study a number of intact samples with the help of modern scientific tools. The agency believes that the time has finally come for this - the level of technology has reached such heights, which makes it possible to obtain valuable information about the composition of the natural satellite of the Earth, about which it was simply impossible to learn before.

Among the samples that NASA is preparing to study,there is soil from the Tavr-Taur-Littre Valley. The sample weighs about 800 grams and includes material not only from the upper, but also from the deeper layers of the lunar surface, which was collected with the help of a special tube by astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission. This lunar soil has not yet been exposed to the earth's atmosphere, and all this time it was stored in hermetically sealed containers at the Center for Space Flight. Johnson in Houston (TX).

According to New Atlas, as part of the programApollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) NASA Aerospace Agency selected nine research teams from various organizations (including the Goddard NASA Space Flight Center), who will be granted the right to study and analyze intact lunar soil samples.

According to Dr. Charles Shirar from the Institutemeteoritics at the University of New Mexico, the head of one of the groups, which, along with the other five teams of scientists will study the above sample, NASA has chosen the most successful time for this study.

Astronaut Harrison Schmitt collects samples of lunar soil in the framework of the Apollo 17 mission

"The goal of preserving lunar samples all this timewas the desire to provide an opportunity for new generations of scientists to analyze the unspoilt lunar soil of the Earth. 50 years ago, we did not have such perfect analysis technologies that we have now. In addition, the modern view of the moon is somewhat different from what people thought about the satellite of our planet half a century ago. In the 2020s, NASA and partners want to bring people back to the moon. And how this return will take place, as well as what exactly the people on the Moon will do, will depend, inter alia, on what this modern analysis of the lunar soil will show, ”the expert explains.

What does the modern analysis of lunar samples be able totell us something that you could not tell the analysis of the same samples, if it was carried out in the 70s? The researchers plan to use a variety of scientific equipment, which will allow them to establish the exact concentration of water, gases and other volatile substances in the samples. The obtained data will be compared with the results of the first lunar soil research, as well as with data collected by lunar orbiters in the framework of more modern missions to the satellite.

“Over the past 50 years, manytechnologies that allow for a completely new look at these samples. Basically, of course, we are talking about a significant increase in the accuracy and scale of research, as well as the development of isotopic analysis systems. For example, various tools and methods for electron and ion microscopy, in particular, transmission electron microscopy, the method of focused ion rays and secondary ion mass spectrometry, allow for observation and analysis at the angstrom level. These tools allow us to study and study thin shells of volatile substances on the surface of mineral particles, ”adds Shirar.

The specialist notes that it is especially helpful.modern methods of research and analysis can be for a detailed study of lunar landslide deposits. In particular, they can allow to determine the age of landslides with greater accuracy.

"Increased measurement accuracy allows us tomore accurately establish the age of important geological events on the lunar surface. In the case of the samples that were obtained during the Apollo 17 mission, we will be able to more accurately determine the age of landslide deposits, as well as find out more about what caused them, ”explains Shirar.

Other groups selected by NASA as part of ANGSA will also study samples collected during the Apollo 17 mission, as well as samples collected by the Apollo 15 mission.

"The first generation of scientists and engineers of the timesthe Apollo program is already over eighty. Our team from the University of New Mexico consists of people belonging to different generations: from scientists who studied some samples of lunar soil in the early 70s and ending with students and graduate students. This work will be an excellent opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience from the first generation of lunar explorers to future generations, ”summarizes Shirar.

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