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NASA to Make Untouched Lunar Samples Available for Study

FILE - Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples during the Apollo 17 mission, Dec. 13, 1972.

NASA is once again turning its focus to the moon.

Nearly 50 years after the last lunar mission, the U.S. space agency is unsealing some of the samples brought back by Apollo astronauts for study.

The lunar samples were collected by astronauts during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

Some of the samples have never been opened, others were resealed in an effort to preserve them.

NASA has picked nine teams of scientists to study the samples. The teams were selected from scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center, the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center, the University of Arizona, the University of California, Berkeley, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the University of New Mexico, Mount Holyoke College and the Planetary Science Institute.

"By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the moon and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth."

NASA said its officials in the 1970s had the foresight to know that future scientists would likely be better equipped to study the lunar material.