Lunar sample facility


  • Anonymous


The tenth anniversary, July 20,1979, of man's first landing on the moon marked another significant event at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, namely, the dedication of the new Lunar Sample Facility. To lunar scientists this event was the culmination of ten years of planning, designing, and at times even lobbying;; to a few observers in Congress and even in NASA administration the facility seemed an unnecessary and costly duplication at the planning stages, especially during the difficult years of unwinding space budgets and competing projects. It seemed natural to assume that the famous Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) should have sufficed to store the lunar sample collection, but that was not the case.

The problems with storage of the lunar samples became evident early in the Apollo program. First, the LRL was designed to house the astronauts while they were in quarantine. The LRL was sort of an ‘Andromeda Strain’ type laboratory, required by the Public Health Service to protect against possible dangerous disease microbes that may have been returned to earth. There was literally no room at all to store lunar samples; much less was there even a modicum of understanding of the delicate character of the samples or of the steps that would be required to protect them from the effects of the earth's atmosphere. This apparent lack of planning was understandable, however, because initially, collection of samples of the moon's surface was neither an essential part of the scientific plans nor necessarily a part of the mission at all. Actually, the original science package only included various measurements of [particles and fields,] to be collected by instrument. Even when serious efforts were made to include sample collection in the missions, astronauts were heard to say that scientists would have to be content with studying merely lunar dust that may have adhered to their boots and space suits. For obvious reasons, at that stage the astronauts were not intending to tarry on the moon.