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May 28, 2013

Apollo 11 Moon Samples Rediscovered After 40 Years

by VOA News

Twenty vials of moon rock and lunar soil collected by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 moon landing mission in 1969 have been found in a warehouse at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Berkeley Lab archivist Karen Nelson uncovered the moon dust—vials with handwritten labels and dated “24 July 1970”—recently while reviewing and clearing out artifacts from Berkeley Lab’s warehouse.

“They were vacuum sealed in a glass jar,” said Nelson, who has worked in Berkeley Lab’s Archives and Records Office for 17 years. “We don’t know how or when they ended up in storage.”

After Apollo 11's historic mission, moon samples were distributed to 150 labs around the world, including Berkeley, and while they were supposed to be eventually sent back to NASA after study, these samples ended up in storage for nearly 40 years.

Also found with the samples was a 1971 paper, “Study of carbon compounds in Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 returned lunar samples,” which was published in the Proceedings of the Second Lunar Science Conference. The paper examined the nature and chemical characteristics of the carbon in the lunar samples.

NASA has asked for the samples to be returned.

Various bits of Apollo 11 memorabilia have surfaced in recent months, according to the technology website, CNET. IN March, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos funded an effort to raise Apollo 11’s booster rocket engines from the ocean floor. Recently, Buzz Aldrin’s space sleepwear went up for auction, as did Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk EKG reading.