Apollo 11 moon rocks still crucial 40 years later

July 18th, 2009 - 1:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 18 (ANI): A lunar geochemist at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) has determined that there are still many answers to be gleaned from the moon rocks collected by the Apollo 11 astronauts on their historic moonwalk 40 years ago.

Randy L. Korotev, a research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts and Sciences, WUSTL, has studied lunar samples and their chemical compositions since he was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and “was in the right place at the right time” in 1969 to be a part of a team to study some of the first lunar samples.

“We know even more now and can ask smarter questions as we research these samples,” said Korotev. “There are still some answers, we believe, in the Apollo 11 mission,” he added.

“We went to the moon and collected samples before we knew much about the moon. We didn’t totally understand the big concept of what the moon was like until early 2000 as a result of missions that orbited the moon collecting mineralogical and compositional data,” said Korotev.

“It’s only been fairly recently that we decided that we should look closer at these Apollo 11 samples,” he added.

The Apollo 11 samples - and samples from almost every Apollo mission until the last one in December 1972 - have been securely housed on the 4th floor of the physics department’s Compton Laboratory and used by numerous WUSTL researchers, including many members of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences.

In the Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, next door to Compton Hall, Korotev, who received his Apollo 11 samples from NASA much later - not until 2005 - still has much work to do with his samples, which have been chemically analyzed and are sealed in tubes and securely stored away for now.

“You can look at the moon and know that the moon has been hit a lot by very large meteorites. We know this occurred some 3.9 billion years ago,” said Korotev.

“We don’t know, however, the history of large meteorites hitting the Earth - we can’t see those impacts because they would have been erased by Earth’s active geology,” he added.

“We want to see if meteorite bombardment on the moon coincided with what was happening on Earth, and, in turn, with life starting on Earth,” said Korotev. (ANI)

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