The tube, which was collected by the crew of the Apollo 17 mission, has remained untouched for 50 years.
The vacuum-sealed container, which contains rocks and soil collected from the site of a landslide deposit on the moon\’s Taurus-Littrow Valley, has remained unopened for five decades.
Sometime this month, however, NASA scientists will be cracking it open for the first time.
The reason for keeping it for so long is simple – back when it was originally collected it was assumed that the technology available to analyze lunar samples would be far more advanced in the future.
That future is now here, meaning that it will be possible to subject the sample to a plethora of tests that simply weren\’t possible with 1970s technology.
Even the process of opening the container is quite elaborate, relying on a special device known as the “Apollo can opener” that will slowly but surely pierce the seal over a period of several weeks.
Scientists are particularly keen to preserve and analyze samples of lunar gases using modern mass spectrometry equipment.
“Each gas component that is analyzed can help to tell a different part of the story about the origin and evolution of volatiles on the Moon and within the early solar system,” said ESA scientist Francesca McDonald.