Astronauts on one of NASA’s Apollo missions hammered a pair of tubes 14 inches long into the surface of the moon 50 years ago. Once the tubes were filled with rocks and soil, the astronauts vacuum-sealed one of the tubes, while the other was put in a normal, unsealed container. Both were brought back to Earth.
Scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are now preparing to carefully open that first tube, which has remained tightly sealed since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, the last time humans set foot on the moon.
“The agency knew science and technology would evolve and allow scientists to study the material in new ways to address new questions in the future,” says NASA’s Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division.
Scientists used a special device they named the “Apollo can opener,” developed at the European Space Agency (ESA) to pierce the sample and capture the gases as they escaped.