NASA says it is finally opening up the vault containing untouched samples from the Apollo missions to the Moon, some three months after it granted nine teams of experts the unique chance of studying the extraterrestrial rock samples.
Back in March, the US space agency tasked four teams from NASA, and five teams from University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley, US Naval Research Laboratory, University of New Mexico and Mount Holyoke College/Planetary Science Institute the scientific testing of the pristine samples with 21st-century technology.
The teams have been awarded a combined budget of $8 million to conduct their scientific analysis on three lunar samples, carefully stored and never exposed to the Earth’s atmosphere for the past half century, in an attempt to further deepen our understanding of the Earth’s sole natural satellite.
On July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 became the first manned-spaceflight ever to land humans on the Moon and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two humans to step on the Moon and managed to bring back 21.5 kilograms of lunar material as their invaluable souvenir from the alien world.
Their successful mission was followed by five similar ones, all carried out by NASA, between 1969 and 1972, with Apollo 17 became the last of the series. The missions brought back lunar samples weighing a total of 382 kilograms.
Around 70 per cent of the samples are still in the sample vault, 15 per cent is in safekeeping in White Sands, New Mexico and the rest have been given out for study or display.