The Best Gift of All: A Box of Moon Soil

NASA Goddard

Dec 23, 2019

Astrochemist Jamie Elsila, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, unwraps pristine Moon soil. Apollo 17 astronauts collected it in 1972 by driving tubes down to 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) below the Moon’s surface and pulling out soil that they vacuum-sealed inside the tube right on the Moon. That tube had never been opened … until recently.

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In this video, Elsila and her colleague, Goddard planetary scientist Danielle Simkus, are preparing 2 grams of Moon soil, which is called regolith, for analysis in their lab, the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory. Besides Moon soil, the scientists are also preparing lab-made Earth soil that will serve as a control in their experiments, helping increase the reliability of the results.

The soils are first crushed with a mortar and pestle and transferred to glass capsules. Then, scientists add water, flame-seal the capsules, and cook them in a special oven to extract organic compounds. Over the next few months, they will study the extracted compounds to shed light on the primordial chemistry of the solar system.

Music: “Fairy Christmas” from Universal Production Music

Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio at:

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