The capsule was not opened at the time because NASA wanted the technology to evolve to better study lunar samples.
NASA has finally opened a sample of the Moon after keeping it sealed for 50 years.
It was one of the last unopened Apollo – era lunar samples and was collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
One of the main reasons NASA kept the sample closed for so long is that the space agency expected the technology to evolve.
Almost 50 years have passed and we have the technology to study the Moon sample in great detail.
What’s inside the lunar capsule?
The display opened at the Johnson Space Center in Houston earlier this week.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA ‘s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “We have had the opportunity to open up this incredibly precious sample that has been stored for 50 years in a vacuum and we can finally see what treasures lie within.”
The mysterious sample was collected during the US space agency’s last manned mission to the Moon. The sample from the Apollo 17 mission will be exactly 50 years old on December 13 this year
Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt collected the Moon sample by hammering a 14-inch tube into the lunar surface. They also collected another sample that was not sealed.
Both tubes were filled with moon rock and dust.
The two samples were returned to Earth and the one that was not vacuum sealed was opened in 2019.
The vacuum-sealed tube was the most exciting because it can contain substances called “volatiles.” Volatiles are gases that evaporate at normal temperatures.
Ryan Zeigler, Apollo sample curator , said: “We have extracted gas from this core and hope it will help scientists as they try to understand the lunar gas signature by looking at the different aliquots [samples taken for chemical analysis].”