2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM

Evolution of Geological Sampling Tool Design during the Apollo Lunar Missions

ALLTON, Judith Haley, Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation, NASA/Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058, judith.h.allton@nasa.gov

Over 4 years, the six Apollo missions collected 2196 individual samples weighing a total of 381.7 kg. Since we had no prior experience collecting samples on the Moon, the main goal of Apollo 11 was to obtain some lunar material and return it safely to Earth. As we gained experience, sampling tools and a more specific sampling strategy evolved. On the later missions with increased mobility, greater numbers of samples with smaller average sample weights, representing more varied conditions, were collected. On Apollo 11, a large soil sample was collected from a broad area around the Lunar Module and scooped directly into the rock box. In contrast, on Apollo 16 a special device was used to sample the upper 1 mm of soil. Collecting tools and containers became more efficient with each mission. The sample weight collected increased much faster than the weight of tools and containers required to collect the samples.

Examples of tool evolution: Aluminum box-shaped scoops, steel-bladed small scoops and a trenching shovel converged into a single scoop design which was capable of all the functions actually needed. Tongs were lengthened and the tines were strengthened. The rake, added to later missions, was extremely useful for collecting small, diverse rocks. The greatest need for modification occurred with the core tubes. The initial core tubes were small diameter, thick-walled tubes with a funnel-shaped bit for use in fluffy soil. The dense lunar soil did not flow easily into these tubes. The core bits were modified for Apollo 12 and 14, but for Apollo 15, completely new tubes of larger diameter with thinner walls were introduced. These tubes performed well and were used on the remaining missions. The repeat visits to the Moon allowed the luxury of adapting the tools to actual conditions resulting in better performance.