Safety First Also Applies on the Moon

June 5, 2018

Hey everyone! Sorry it has been awhile, a lot has been going these past few weeks. The main reason it has been some time since I have updated this blog is because I have been preparing for the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) Exploration Science Summer Internship at Clear Lake Texas. For the next 10 weeks, myself and 9 other graduate students from US, Canadian, British, and German institutions will be working on robotic traverse planning, in situ resource utilization studies, and trafficability of pyroclastic material on the farside of the Moon. Under the supervision of Dr David Kring, we plan to complete a series of projects, manuscripts, and LPSC abstracts. On the side, I will be editing the third draft of my paper I plan on submitting to an earth science journal (I have not decided on which journal yet, I will think about this once all of my co-authors have read the draft). I also need to start thinking about my comprehensive exams. Most of my PhD friends have either passed or are in mid-revision for there exams. I am behind them, but with the opportunities that have come up during the past few months I have had to push my exams back to the Fall term.


The first week of the internship is already over, and we are only just getting started with work! It is going to be a busy couple of months I can tell you that! Let us see, what did we all get up to? Well I could talk about the introduction lecture on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter datasets and instruments, our tour of the LPI building, and the accommodation we are all staying at during the internship but I think I will focus on the most exciting part. On our first day, we got a tour of the Apollo Sample Collection in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Facility at the Johnson Space Centre! I thought to myself as I walked through the front door, "if someone was to tell me during my undergraduate that I would get to see the Apollo sample collection at the Johnson Space Centre I would have been sceptical." It goes to show what happens when you work hard, and stretch out your mind in search of new opportunities to enhance your academic stature and improve your career path. 





On the tour, we were shown where the samples were stored and curated, how they were documented and analysed during the Apollo missions and now, what analysis is currently being performed on the samples, and the procedures taken when entering and leaving the cleanroom. We had to have our phones cleaned and placed in an "air shower" before we were allowed to take photos. No outside shoes or clothes could be exposed so we had to put on bunny suits to cover up our shoes, hair, hands, and body. The suits were surprisingly comfortable, although our hands were very sweaty throughout the tour. Once we got through, we were shown a variety of samples, from clast-bearing impact melts to anorthosite. I will never forget the moment we opened the vault door to the sample storage room. I did not think I would see a vault door that was not in a bank. 


One of my favourite parts of the tour was being shown the Apollo 15 sample 15016, a vesicular olivine basalt. The sample is famous in the scientific community because it is referred to as the Seatbelt sample. The story behind this name goes back to 1971, when David Scott, mission commander of Apollo 15 noticed a rock on the lunar surface. Mission control told the team they had to pack up and return to the lander, and told David Scott he could not pick up the rock. He told mission control that his seatbelt on the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) needed fixing. Once mission control gave him permission to fix his seatbelt on the LRV (any compromise to safety was taken very seriously by mission control, for obvious reasons) he picked up the rock, put it in a sample bag, and contacted mission control saying he "fixed" his seatbelt. From then on, the sample was referred to as the Seatbelt sample. I would say the morale of the story is safety is important but if you see a rock you find fascinating you cannot help but collect it!


I will be updating this blog series as much as I can. As the days go by we will become even busier during the weekdays and out exploring the Houston area on the weekends, so it may be difficult to update weekly. I promise though I will put in the effort!


Talk to you all soon, and rest of the team say greetings!




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