Scientists from the University of Washington are working to recover gases from lunar soil collected by astronauts in 1972.
Apollo 17 astronauts, Harrison Schmidt and Eugene Cernan, collected the sample from the ancient landslide site in the Toros Litro Valley on the Moon. And put it in a container.
Back on Earth, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) carefully placed the container in the lunar vault at the agency’s Johnson Space Center, where it has remained in a pristine condition, almost untouched until now.
“For the past 50 years, the sample has been preserved in a container, surrounded by another container, and the containers have been placed in two sealed Teflon bags and the sample has been cleaned,” Alex Michik, a professor of physics at McDonnell University in the US, and the principal investigator for this mission said in a report published by the University of Washington. Store them in a box in a cellar.”
Breaking and opening the containers, as Michik and his collaborators did last month, was difficult, and they needed to be able to identify the original chemical signature of every part of the gas that might be in the containers, he said.
He added: “This includes lunar gas that may have been captured at the time the lunar regolith was collected, as well as any other gases that may have escaped from the rocks during subsequent decades of storage.”
He continued, “For this reason, our devices are designed to be able to extract not only one gas but several extractions of different volumes in different conditions.”
“To help us make informed decisions during these extractions we have integrated a mass spectrometer into the instrument for real-time compositional analyzes of the gas, and 3 high-accuracy manometers for non-destructive, gas-independent pressure measurements.”
Michik led the design and construction of the manifold extraction device, with support from Olga Pravdevtseva, Associate Research Professor of Physics, and Rita Baray, Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Washington, and these scientists are internationally recognized for their high-resolution analyzes of terrestrial and solar system gases.
“Fifty years ago, when these samples were collected, NASA scientists had the foresight to devise regulatory procedures that would ensure generational access to the original samples when new analytical methods and procedures became available,” said Brad Golev, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Scott Rudolph and Director of the McDonnell Space Science Center. and posing new scientific questions.
He added, “Noble gas studies are a great example because they not only contain a lot of information about the current implantation of material from the Sun to the Moon’s surface, but also about the Moon’s origin four and a half billion years ago, so stay tuned for the interesting results to come.”
The preliminary scientific results will be discussed during the Planetary and Lunar Science Conference, which will be held in Houston from March 7 to 11.
Lunar gases are now collected from storage containers using a manifold extraction device, and after collecting the trapped gases in the containers, the team plans to allow other gases to slowly diffuse from the moon rocks themselves, and NASA will then send the gases to select laboratories in the United States of America and Europe specializing in high analytics. Precision for oxygen, nitrogen, noble gases and organic matter.
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