On November 5, for the first time in 40 years, a pristine lunar rock sample was opened by scientists at NASA, the United States space agency, in order to test new tools in advance of the upcoming Artemis missions.
The space agency opened sample 73002 in conjunction with its Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, created to use new technologies that were not around at the time the samples were collected.
"Opening these samples now will enable new scientific discoveries about the Moon and will allow a new generation of scientists to refine their techniques to better study future samples returned by Artemis astronauts", said Francis McCubbin, NASA's astromaterials curator at Johnson.
Boeing has submitted a proposal to NASA for an integrated Human Lander System (HLS) created to safely take astronauts to the surface of the moon and return them to lunar orbit as part of the Artemis space exploration program. Ultimately, NASA hopes that all of this research will be used to prepare for the next phase of space exploration, which is sending astronauts to Mars.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.
The bottom scan of sample 73002 was taken using radiograph technology in 1974 by NASA.
Under NASA's current plans, though, the Block 1B version of SLS won't be ready in time for a 2024 landing. "To be the one to open a sample that hasn't been opened since it was collected on the Moon is such an honor and heavy responsibility, we're touching history".
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However, Nasa's procurement process allows for the use of two separate landers from different companies on the Artemis-3 and Artemis-4 missions (Artemis-4 is due to fly in 2025).
Boeing has shown off its crewed Moon lander idea, one it says will require the "fewest steps to the Moon" as NASA looks to return to the lunar surface in 2024.
The sample opened on November 5, known as 73002, was collected from a landslide deposit near the Lara Crater on the moon. NASA says that scientists will also open another sample, 73001, collected from the same site in January.
Nasa previously said its preferred option was a lunar lander split into three stages, but it left the door open to "alternative, innovative approaches".
"Using the lift capability of NASA's Space Launch System Block 1B, we have developed a "Fewest Steps to the Moon" approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface", Jim Chilton, senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing Defense, Space and Security, said in a company statement.
Further, the descent stage and the ascent stage of its design - as you can guess, the former is necessary to be able to land on the lunar surface, while the latter will take astronauts back to the Gateway - can be launched on one rocket. "This research will help NASA better understand how volatile reservoirs develop, evolve and interact on the Moon and other planetary bodies".