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Purdue scientists studying moon samples from Apollo 17 mission

The Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program is trying to find out how the moon has changed over time.

Posted: Jul 6, 2021 2:30 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2021 2:54 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Researchers at Purdue are working on a groundbreaking project that's literally out of this world.

"Curiosity is really what drives scientists and it's important to understand our place in the solar system," said Purdue Assistant Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Michelle Thompson.

That's exactly what Thompson is doing.

She's in the middle of a three-year project analyzing moon dust from the Apollo 17 Mission.

"It's a core sample which means the astronauts stuck a tube down into the soil and collected about 24 inches of material," Thompson explained.

The samples have not been studied since the core was brought to Earth in 1972.

Now, the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program is trying to find out how the moon has changed over time.

"We're looking for the changes in the chemistry and also in the structure of the minerals that are in the soil, and those changes happen when the materials are exposed to space sitting on the surface of the moon," she added.

Thompson said the three-year project is going to have a big impact in the years to come.

"These samples are going to be made available to scientists forever," said Thompson. "So, we can anticipate studying them far beyond our three-year project."

Thompson's team is based at the University of New Mexico, but the core sample is being studied by scientists across the world.

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