In 1972, astronaut Eugene Cernan collected a sample of the lunar surface using a 70-centimeter cylindrical tube that he hammered into the satellite’s floor and then vacuum sealed. He then took him back to the Apollo spacecraft and brought him to Earth, where was in turn stored in a vacuum chamber, a place where it has remained until today, according to reports the European Space Agency.
The purpose of this cylinder was to preserve an unaltered sample of the lunar surface so that the science of the future, which they envisioned more advanced, could continue investigating the mysteries of the Moon and space. Now, NASA is ready to open the tube and for this it will have a device created by the European Space Agency.
The scientists in charge of analyzing this sample believe that remains of fluids such as hydrogen, helium and other noble gases that help to better understand lunar geology and find better ways to store future samples on missions to the Moon, Mars and various asteroids.
“This international effort can help develop new containers and sample return protocols, particularly for those rich in ice from polar locations on the Moon and Mars ”, they explain from the European Space Agency.
In 1972, the Apollo 17 mission marked the end of the Apollo Program by which manned spacecraft landed and investigated the surface of the Moon. Thus, not knowing when the human being would step on the terrestrial satellite again, those responsible for the project thought it would be a good idea collect such samples to be investigated in the future.
The European ‘can opener’
Those responsible for the Apollo Program had the good idea of collecting and storing a sample of the Moon’s surface in a vacuum so that it could be analyzed by future generations of scientists. but they did not solve how the contents of the tube could be extracted without contaminating it. For this reason, in recent years NASA has been investigating, together with space agencies from other countries and private companies, the best way to obtain them without altering them.
And that’s where the European Space Agency comes in, which has developed a drilling device that allow the tube to be opened in such a way that the samples are not contaminated and can be analyzed as if they were still in their original environment. This tool has been colloquially known by its promoters as the ‘Apollo can opener’.
“This drilling tool is a singular system built for the sole purpose of piercing the so-called Apollo 73001 sample container”, They explain from the European Space Agency, which does not provide many more technical details in this regard.
Once the European tool has pierced the container, an extraction manifold designed by the University of Washington in Saint-Louis (United States) especially for this project collect the gas samples that are kept inside the tube, which will later be sent to specialized laboratories around the world to be studied in detail.