Moon: European Space Agency (ESA) scientists will receive a special Christmas gift straight from the moon this year. They will have the opportunity to open a vacuum-sealed capsule 50 years ago.
It was astronaut Gene Cernan, during the Apollo 17 mission, who “wrapped” samples of lunar soil and gases in a 70-centimeter cylinder. Still in space, the bottom half of the compartment was sealed. On Earth, the entire set was stored in a vacuum chamber, where it has remained for the past 50 years.
Scientists on that space mission knew that the technology would advance, so they saved part of the samples for future researchers. Dubbed the “Apollo can opener”, special equipment is able to open the container without allowing gases to escape.
The new technology is the result of the collaborative work of different researchers. The project marks the first time that the European agency participates in the material analysis of the Apollo mission, an event celebrated by the AEE.
“It’s a privilege to be able to work with the precious samples of the ancient Moon that have witnessed the history of our Solar System, and to be part of a program that can help unlock its secrets,” says Francesca McDonald, AEE scientist and project leader for agency’s contribution to the research.