Researchers from Mount Holyoke College and UMass Amherst are among the teams chosen by NASA to study moon rocks gathered during Apollo missions 50 years ago. These rock samples haven't been unsealed before now.
Darby Dyar, a planetary scientist at Mount Holyoke, is the team's principal investigator. She first worked on lunar samples 30 years ago.
Back then, to analyze lunar rock, Dyar said, you had to grind it up. Now teams will receive just ounces of moon material.
Dyar will attempt to measure how much oxygen was on the moon using bits of lava from billions of years ago. This is one way to better understand its evolution, and to compare it to rocky planets like Earth, she said.
Ironically, Dyar said, with melted rock, researchers can't actually measure oxygen. They'll be measuring iron.
"[The iron] tells us something about how much oxygen was around in the interior of the moon at the time these glass beads were formed by the explosive fire fountains," she said.
Dyar said looking at rock particles gets humans closer to one day having a permanent settlement on the moon. Though, she added, she herself has no interest in living there.
Correction: The photo of Darby Dyar was initially incorrectly attributed. The correct photographer is Aaron Haesaert, not Keely Savoie Sexton.