Written by Dr. Juliane Gross
The Apollo Program returned 381 kg of samples from the lunar surface which have provided fundamental insights into the origin and history of the Earth-Moon system and our solar system. During Apollo, some samples were collected or preserved in unique containers or environments and have remained unexamined until recently. From 2019-2022 Rutgers EPS professor Dr. Juliane Gross was on loan to the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX. Here she opened two of the last unopened samples: the Apollo 17 double drive tube 73001 and 73002. In this work she was part of Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) Program that was designed to function as a sample return mission. Dr. Gross led the opening, processing, basic characterization, and preliminary examination of these unique samples. The resulting sample catalog (link here) is a critical document that is utilized by scientists across the world to select and request the best samples to conduct their individual scientific studies.
The work Dr. Gross carried out will help prepare future explorers for lunar missions such as the upcoming Artemis mission returning to the Moon within the next five years and beyond. Her work under the ANGSA Program links the first generation of lunar explorers (Apollo) with future explorers of the Moon (Artemis). As a next generation lunar explorer, Alissa Madera (PhD student at Rutgers EPS) came to visit Dr. Gross in 2022, where she used the instruments available at JSC to conduct sample analyses on a young basaltic lunar meteorite for her PhD (advisor: Dr. Juliane Gross). Unlike Apollo samples that come from a small and geologically unique region of the Moon, lunar meteorites represent a random sampling of the lunar surface, and thus, are critical for our understanding of lunar evolution through space and time. However, the launch location of most meteorites remains unknown, making it difficult to fully interpret their geologic history and the geology of the region of the Moon from which they originated. Alissa’s work will utilize remote sensing observations in combination with meteoritical geochemical data to provide potential source location(s) for meteorites. Furthermore, understanding the potential provenance and possible relationships between young basaltic meteorites from the Moon will provide insights into the timing, duration, and location of late-stage lunar volcanism, and provide insights into the thermal history of the Moon. In addition to carrying out her research, Alissa was also able to assist in daily curation tasks while at NASA JSC, such as pulling samples from the pristine lunar sample vault for sample allocations, assist in filming in the lunar lab, and visiting mission control during the Artemis 1 fly-by of the Moon that was annotated by Dr. Gross during a live interview. We had a blast! Here is to the Moon and beyond!"