Scientists Recovering Gases from Moon Time Capsule

A team of scientists are involved in a project to collect gases from a container of lunar soil that was collected and sealed by the crew of Apollo 17 on their lunar mission back in 1972.

Astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan collected the sample from the site of ancient landslide in the Taurus Littrow Valley area of the Moon. They scoped out a column of lunar regolith -a mixture of soil, dust and broken rock – from the surface of the Moon, and sealed it in a container.

It was then brought back to earth and placed in a vault at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it remained virtually undisturbed until now.

Cracking the containers open was no easy task, because the scientists needed to be able to identify the chemical signature to every bit of gas that they contained, distinguishing between original lunar gases and those that may have seeped in during the years in storage.

Given the advances in technology since the samples were first collected, it is hoped that the equipment now available will help provide deeper insights into the very origins of the Moon, as well as the implantation of materials from the Sun in its surface.

Once the gases have been extracted, the intention is to send samples to selected laboratories in the US and Europe which specialise in high precision analyses of oxygen, nitrogen, organics and noble gases.

Of course, many things have changed since the days of Apollo 17, including the creation of a digital world unimaginable to the astronauts back then. Email the internet, social media and everything that goes with it have all since become indispensable to modern living, including online casinos like 

Whilst it may seem surprising that these samples were not examined more closely at the time, in fact the sad truth is that space exploration quickly died out after the initial moon landing in 1969.

For a generation reared on Star Trek and Space Wars, the actual experience of the Moon, an arid, dusty place where nothing grows , soon became prosaic, and the cost of the space launches proved increasingly unpopular with US tax payers.

And the yields that the space programme yielded commercially were not what some of the original backers had promised

O course, there is a new interest in space travel since the launch of private space flights, with the likes of Egon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos all competing to send the wealthy into space, even if such schemes are limited to those with the deepest of pockets just now.

Nor has the public’s love of the notion of space exploration diminished, given that Hollywood still finds it a lucrative subject about which to male movies.

Perhaps, now that scientists have begun to explore at last some of the material brought back from the moon, they will find a way to marry fact and fiction ad inspire a whole new generation of young explorers who will want to explore the “final frontier.”