March 14, 2019

UA Scientists Chosen to Examine Unopened Moon Samples

Rocks and soil were collected during Apollo missions almost 50 years ago.

Apollo 17 Harrison H. Schmitt stands next to a split lunar boulder on the Apollo 17 mission in this photo from Dec. 13, 1972. (PHOTO: NASA)

Planetary scientists at the University of Arizona are among a group getting to look at some of the last soil samples collected from the moon by American astronauts.

The samples are from the Apollo 17 mission, which landed on the moon in December, 1972. Some of the soil that the astronauts brought back was put into cold storage. Researcher Jessica Barnes notes moon rocks haven't yielded all their secrets.

"We're still learning so much, and this is partly because we are able to apply new technologies to samples that were collected almost 50 years ago," she said.

Barnes will be joined by fellow UA lunar scientist Tom Zega and researchers from three other universities along with the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Apollo 17 was the final mission in which people visited the moon. Barnes and her team expect their project's results will help scientists handle the sample that the UA-led OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will bring back from the asteroid Bennu in 2023.

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