As of this summer, NASA decided it was high time to share its massive collection of lunar rocks with the rest of the world. The treasure has been hidden in a repository at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (Huston, Texas) in the past 50 years. Not many were those that were able to see or even touch the hundreds of pounds of rock from Earth’s satellite that Apollo astronauts gathered, but all changed now. NASA is ready to let its collection in the open and geologists are invited to analyze them with their new technologies.
‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’
A coincidence of NASA’s decision is that the announcement comes right in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first step on the moon. Ryan Zeigler, the Apollo sample curator at NASA, agrees that it is a fortuitous circumstance and goes on to affirm that ‘certainly the anniversary increased the awareness and the fact that we’re going back to the moon.’
Half a century after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20th, 1969, NASA’s greatest ambition is to send astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024.
Between 1969 and 1972, 12 astronauts walked on the surface of the moon and collected hundreds of pounds of samples that they brought back to Earth. Armstrong and Aldrin were the first ones to photograph and collect rocks and core samples from beneath the surface of the moon on their short visit to the astronomical body.
NASA’s lunar rocks inventory totals over 100,000 samples
Some samples had never been exposed to the terrestrial atmosphere, which was the right thing to do back then. With today’s technology, scientists can examine the uncontaminated samples and find much more incredible things about the moon that it was possible in the past.
After examining the moon rocks brought by the Apollo astronauts, space scientists were able to establish how old were Mars and Mercury and the fact that the Solar System’s other planets in all probability formed much closer to the Sun than they are now and later drifted further from the star. NASA’s lunar rocks inventory encloses more than 100,000 samples, but only a part of them will be displayed for everyone to see.