Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis extracted gases from a container of lunar soil that astronauts collected and vacuum-sealed on the lunar surface in 1972.

It was not easy to open containers with sealed soil and extract gas from there. Scientists have identified the original chemical signature of everything that could be in the containers. In particular, lunar gas that may have entered the container when the regolith was collected, as well as any other gases that may have leaked from the rocks during storage.

There is no perfect vacuum seal. There was also no way to know how the vacuum seals on the containers were doing after 50 years. Did they hold a vacuum? How far did the gases leak out? The main task in creating the extraction system was to anticipate all possible scenarios so that we were ready for any result. Therefore, our device has been designed in such a way that it has the ability to perform not only one gas extraction, but also several extractions of different volumes under different conditions.

Alex Meshik, Research Professor and Fellow at the Space Science Center at McDonnell University

Previously, these containers were placed in two sealed Teflon bags and stored in a nitrogen glove box in storage.

The samples were stored for 50 years in a vacuum container, which was then enclosed in an external vacuum container. It looked like a nesting doll, the authors note.

To help make informed decisions, we used a mass spectrometer to analyze the gas composition in real time, as well as three high-precision capacitance manometers.

Alex Meshik, Research Professor and Fellow at the Space Science Center at McDonnell University

Fifty years ago, when these samples were collected, NASA scientists had the foresight to curate these samples so that future generations could access the samples through new technologies.

Noble gas research is a great way to learn new things about a celestial body, as it can even reveal the origin of the moon.

Brad Jolliff Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Director of the McDonnell Space Science Center