The fragments of the Moon of Apollo transformed the knowledge of the universe



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Houston (USA) (AFP)

The Moon is "the Rosetta Stone of the Solar System": almost 400 kilos of lunar rock brought back to Earth by American astronauts have transformed knowledge about the universe.

They look like gray stones without much interest, but those 3,000 pounds are "the most precious materials on Earth," said the astronomer of Planet Samuel, NASA, a specialist in planets of the US Space Agency. "The moon is the cornerstone of planetary science."

These rocks were brought to Earth by astronauts from the six American missions on the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

Many discoveries about the nature of the universe come from studying samples brought by the first mission, Apollo 11, whose fiftieth birthday will be celebrated in July.

"People do not realize the importance of studying Apollo samples to understand our solar system and the universe around us," says Lawrence. "Not just on the Moon, but also on Mercury, Mars, some asteroids."

Scientists were able to understand how Earth's natural satellite was born, almost at the same time as the blue planet, from 4.3 to 4.4 billion years ago as a result of a huge impact on the satellite. the ancestor of our planet.

The wreck took several hundred million years to merge into Earth's orbit to form the moon.

"We learned that the internal structure of the moon was like that of Earth," the scientist continues. "It has a crust, a mantle and a core," but it is devoid of life and has neither native fossils nor native organic species.

– In a safe –

Some lunar stones are on display, especially at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. President Richard Nixon also donated small pieces to the 135 nations of the day as a symbol of American "goodwill."

But most of them are kept at the NASA Mars Molecular Sampling Laboratory in Houston, "in enclosed containers in a safe vault that can withstand hurricanes and many natural disasters." As a precaution, some of this treasure can also be found in White Sands, New Mexico.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of man's first step on the Moon on July 20, some samples were sparingly distributed to scientists this year.

"We're very cautious," says Lawrence. "Scientists undergo a rigorous procedure to request a sample."

Because they allow, even after five decades, to make even more discoveries thanks to the technological progress of the analyzes.

A recent example: the moon "is not actually completely free of water," said Lawrence, who does not hide his enthusiasm for the astronauts returning to walk there.

This is, in any case, the goal set for 2024 by President Donald Trump.

"The six missions on the moon have transformed our understanding of the universe – imagine what would happen if we went there for weeks or months at a time," the scientist points out. "There are still many unexplored places on the moon, it will be spectacular."

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