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Piercing Tool for a Moon Sample Container
Science & Technology

Opening a 50-Year-Old Christmas Present From the Moon – Using a Custom-Built “Apollo Can Opener”

A piercing software constructed by ESA is ready to open a Moon soil container from Apollo 17 that has gone untouched for practically 50 years. Credit score: ANGSA science group

A fairly particular reward unwrapping will quickly happen – a piercing software constructed by ESA will open a Moon soil container from Apollo 17 that has gone untouched for practically 50 years. The opening will permit the extraction of treasured lunar gases which can have been preserved in the pattern.

Evaluation of the gaseous volatiles will permit scientists to raised perceive the geology of the Moon and assist engineers to design higher sampling instruments and strategies for future missions to the Moon and even Mars.

The gasoline extraction experiment is a part of the bigger Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) program that coordinates the evaluation of pristine Moon samples from the Apollo period. And for the first time ever, ESA is concerned in the opening of soil returned from the Moon.

Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan making ready to gather samples 73001 and 73002 on the Moon in 1972. Gene Cernan collected the pattern from a landslip deposit that cascaded down into the Taurus-Littrow Valley. The Apollo 17 astronaut hammered a 70 cm lengthy cylindrical tube into the floor to extract a core pattern of the lunar soil. Credit score: NASA

“The opening and analyses of those samples now, with the technical developments achieved since the Apollo period, can allow new scientific discoveries on the Moon. This will additionally encourage and inform a new technology of explorers,” says Francesca McDonald, science and undertaking lead of ESA’s contribution to ANGSA.

Francesca and colleague Timon Schild traveled final month to NASA’s Johnson House Middle in Houston, USA, to ship the piercing software and prepare the lunar pattern curation group on function it.

Francesca McDonald, science and undertaking lead of ESA’s contribution to ANGSA, and colleague Timon Schild travelled in November 2021 to NASA’s Johnson House Middle in Houston, USA, to ship the piercing software and prepare the lunar pattern curation group on function it. ESA’s piercing software, jokingly referred to as the “Apollo can opener” amongst the group, can puncture the Moon pattern vacuum container to help capturing the trapped gases as they escape. Credit score: ANGSA science group

“It’s a privilege to have the ability to work amongst the treasure trove of historic Moon samples which have witnessed the historical past of our Photo voltaic System, and be a a part of a program that may assist to disclose their secrets and techniques,” provides Francesca.

Pattern 73002, the higher part of a double drive tube core pattern extracted from Apollo 17 touchdown web site (paired with decrease part 73001 which nonetheless stays sealed in a particular vacuume container referred to as a CSVC). The core samples materials comes from a lunar landslide occasion in the Taurus Littrow Valley touchdown web site of Apollo 17. Trying down on the high of the core as it’s being extracted in 5 mm intervals alongside its size. On this picture the unique location and orientation of a bigger rock clast is noticed. Credit score: ESA–Francesca McDonald

The software now stands-by for use on the Apollo pattern container in the coming weeks.

Astronaut Gene Cernan collected the pattern on the Moon in 1972 from a landslip deposit that cascaded down into the Taurus-Littrow Valley. The Apollo 17 astronaut hammered a 70 cm lengthy cylindrical tube into the floor to extract a core pattern of the lunar soil.

The decrease half of this core pattern was sealed in a vacuum tight container on the lunar floor. Again on Earth, the container was put in an extra vacuum chamber the place it has sat undisturbed till this present day.

Scientists consider that there could also be loosely sure gases, similar to hydrogen, helium and noble gases nonetheless trapped in the pattern container.

“The piercing software is a answer for accessing the gases. We’re wanting to learn the way properly the vacuum container preserved the pattern and the fragile gases,” says Francesca.

The worldwide effort can assist develop new pattern return containers and protocols, significantly for water-ice wealthy samples from lunar polar areas and future martian samples.

ESA’s piercing software, jokingly referred to as the “Apollo can opener” amongst the group, can puncture the Moon pattern vacuum container to help capturing the trapped gases as they escape.

The delicate gases are then collected in devoted canisters due to an extraction manifold designed by a accomplice group at Washington College in Saint-Louis, USA.

A piercing software constructed by ESA is ready to open a Moon soil container from Apollo 17 that has gone untouched for practically 50 years. Credit score: ANGSA science group

The gasoline pattern canisters will likely be despatched to specialised laboratories round the world, together with Europe, for extra detailed research.

“Every gasoline part that’s analyzed can assist to inform a completely different a part of the story about the origin and evolution of volatiles on the Moon and inside the early Photo voltaic System,” says Francesca.

The work with lunar materials imposed a lot of stringent guidelines for materials selections, cleanliness and working procedures. Previous to leaving ESTEC, the closing product underwent stringent cleansing and baking (heating to 180 levels Celsius for 72 hours in a vacuum oven) to make sure assembly science and curation necessities. Credit score: ANGSA science group

ESA developed the “Apollo can opener” over a interval of about 16 months in a really worldwide effort. Scientific and technical specialists from six completely different groups and 7 nationalities throughout two ESA websites labored with the ANGSA consortium, with help from the laboratory amenities at ESTEC, ESA’s major expertise heart.

“This piercing software is a one-of-a-kind system constructed for the sole goal of puncturing the so-called 73001 Apollo pattern container,” says Timon Schild, who led the improvement at ESA’s Spaceship EAC group.

The work with lunar materials imposed a lot of stringent guidelines for materials selections, cleanliness and working procedures. On high of that, all the info got here from 50-year-old paperwork.

“A few of the traits of the pattern container have been merely unknown. All in all, constructing the software was a problem, but additionally extraordinarily inspiring and a rewarding undertaking to work on,” provides Timon.

Trying forward, the classes realized by the ANGSA program will assist enhance future missions to the Moon, similar to NASA’s Artemis and ESA’s Prospect applications.

New pattern dealing with and containment approaches may also contribute to the exploration of the Pink Planet. Along with NASA, ESA is aiming to return samples with the Mars Sample Return program.

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