Scientists to open Apollo 17 vacuum-sealed container after 50 years

After five decades, scientists will be able to study the lunar gases collected by astronauts during the Apollo 17 mission

Those in charge of the Apollo 17 mission decided not to open one of the vacuum-sealed lunar samples so that future scientists can study it with today’s tools. Now one of these sample containers is ready to open after 50 years .

The samples were collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan in 1972 , who was working in the Taurus-Littrow Valley when he hammered a 70-centimeter-long tube to collect samples of soil and lunar gases.

The bottom half of the container was vacuum sealed while Cernan was on the Moon . When he returned to Earth , the samples were resealed in another vacuum chamber just in case.

Lunar samples after 50 years

Now the time has come to open one of these old samples and investigate a very important payload. According to the statement from the European Space Agency (ESA), there is hope to find the gases inside, including hydrogen, helium and other gases. 

Analysis of this 50-year-old sample will improve understanding of lunar geology and may shed new light on how to better store samples in the future, be it materials collected on our next trip to the Moon or Mars .