NASA has selected nine research teams to study conserved rocks on the Moon, which were collected during the Apollo era. In its press release, NASA has stated that one of the samples the teams will evaluate has never been in contact with Earth’s atmosphere, while the others have been frozen and stored in helium since collection.
Of the nine teams, two are based at NASA’s own Ames Research Center located in Silicon Valley, California. NASA claims that the samples are a time capsule for the Moon’s past and contain information that will help them prepare to permanently inhabit the Moon for years to come.
The unopened sample, which the teams will be testing, was collected by the last manned moon mission, Apollo 17. The samples span from the original Apollo mission, which occurred nearly 50 years ago. Scientists will now test the rock samples with modern technologies to discover in detail the history of the Moon.
The team led by Richard Walroth of the Universities Space Research Association and David Blake of Ames will test the effects of space weather on the lunar surface. The team will be tasked with understanding how solar radiation impacts iron and other metals on the moon’s soil and what happens to hydrogen particles from the sun when they come into contact with the lunar surface.
This research will be helpful in deciding the materials to use for lunar habitats and other structures that will make the Moon habitable for humans.
The second team at NASA’s Silicon Valley facility will be led by Sehlke and Derek Sears who work at Ames through the Bay Area Institute for Environmental Research. This equipment will heat grain-sized samples of moondust, using the intensity of its glow to reveal the Moon’s thermal past.
This will help NASA find out how hot these rocks have been and how much radiation they have been exposed to. It will also help locate points to search for water, hydrogen, and other materials. The nine research groups will share their samples and findings, working collaboratively to create a roadmap for the human future on the Moon.