[meteorite-list] Vials of Apollo Moon Dust found
From: Galactic Stone & Ironworks <meteoritemike_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 23 May 2013 14:21:30 -0400
By Megan Gannon
Vials of moon dust brought back to Earth by the first men on the moon
have been found inside a lab warehouse in California after sitting in
storage unnoticed for more than 40 years.
The samples ? collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and
Buzz Aldrin ? were rediscovered last month by an archivist who was
going over artifacts tucked away at the Lawrence Berkeley National
"We don't know how or when they ended up in storage," Karen Nelson,
who made the surprising discovery, said in a statement from the lab.
Nelson came across about 20 vials with handwritten labels dated "24
July 1970," packed in a vacuum-sealed glass jar. Accompanying the jar
was an academic paper published in the Proceedings of the Second Lunar
Science Conference in 1971, titled "Study of carbon compounds in
Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 returned lunar samples."
All of the authors of the paper were from the University of
California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory, including Nobel
Prize-winning chemist Melvin Calvin, who worked with NASA on efforts
to protect the moon from contamination during the first lunar landing,
as well as plans to protect Earthlings from unknown pathogens feared
to be lurking in lunar dust.
Marilee Bailey / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
This vial of Apollo 11 moon dust from a lunar sample collected in 1969
was rediscovered 40 years later in the warehouse of Berkeley Lab in
The moon dust samples were supposed to be sent back to NASA after the
Space Sciences Laboratory team finished their experiments. By some
wrong turn, they ended up in storage.
After making the discovery, Nelson contacted officials at the Space
Sciences Laboratory. "They were surprised we had the samples," she
Nelson then got in touch with NASA officials, who allowed her to open
the jar to remove the vials before she returned them to the space
agency, according to the statement from Berkeley.
In all, NASA's moonwalking Apollo astronauts brought 842 pounds (382
kilograms) of lunar samples back to Earth between 1969 and 1972, and
very little of it is thought to be unaccounted for.
Of the 68-gram batch of lunar material distributed to Calvin and his
collaborators in 1970, NASA knew that only 50 grams was returned, said
Ryan Zeigler, NASA's Apollo sample curator at the Johnson Space Center
Space agency officials assumed that the unaccounted-for 18 grams had
been destroyed during testing. Zeigler thinks the rediscovered,
roughly 3-gram sample likely ended up in storage as a result of some
"Given the lengths taken to preserve the samples, this does not appear
to have been an attempt of deliberate deception, but likely a
miscommunication where some of the material was retained for ongoing
or expected future studies which never happened," Zeigler wrote in an
email. "Why they were never returned is unclear."
The vials have been returned to NASA's sample vault, the curator said,
but it is possible that the samples could one day end up back in a
"I do not know whether these samples will be studied again, but this
sample (10059) is a very interesting Apollo 11 breccia that is in
short supply, so I believe there is a good chance that this material
could be used to fill future requests for this sample," Zeigler added.
Link - http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/23/18445702-vials-of-apollo-11-moon-dust-found-in-storage?lite
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