Last updated February 19, 2022 at 08:01 AM
NASA has launched a new site that allows you to manipulate rocks from other planets as if they were in your hands. A godsend for scientists around the world.
NASA's Astromaterial Sample Collections, include a sample library of lunar meteorites and Antarctic Apollo. Today they are all available online via a new virtual exploration tool intended for scientific researchers and the general public. The Astromaterials 3D Explorer site offers an unprecedented research tool to engage the public in a new way to explore the importance of the space rock collections of the NASA.
The virtual sharing of the Apollo samples, which were collected around 50 years ago, is particularly timely as NASA prepares to send a new group of astronauts to the Lune with the Artemis lunar exploration program. The agency's objective will be to further explore the moon and collect more samples using robots and humans.
NASA - Rocks from other planets now practically available - Science Click to tweet
Samples presented by NASA
The samples presented on the Website have been stored and kept safe on Earth in pristine condition since their collisions with the Earth or their collection by the Apollo astronauts who roamed the lunar soil.
«Most of the samples are kept for scientific research. Some sub-samples are available for educators or in exhibitions and installations around the world, but the bulk of the collection is in a vaulted clean room for their preservation and protection Said Erika Blumenfeld, principal investigator and project leader for 3D astromaterial science, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"Finding a way to make these samples more accessible is part of our goal to expand people's knowledge about samples and exploration.. "
Hold the stones in your hands
Thanks to the new site, a researcher, an inquisitive child, and anyone in between can, "in a way, hold the stones in their handsBlumenfeld said.
The website also offers a trip virtual across the Milky Way before viewers can delve into the discovery of a specific sample.
«Our goal is to make the user feel inside the inner solar system or the asteroid beltBlumenfeld said.
«We see meteorites, we read about them and we know the rocks of the Moon, but 3D Astromaterials really brings this sense of theimagination and exploration in a visceral and visual way.
Then, by selecting a sample, "people can actually interact with the rocks one on one and have the opportunity to wonder, ask, study and researchBlumenfeld said.
History is in the rock
«I think every rock has its own origin storyBlumenfeld said. "The rocks are storytellers, travelers in the weather… I was inspired to listen to geologists talk about their special interest in certain geological processes. Inevitably, you will always hear them say, "But the story is in the rock." »
Spectators browsing through the samples on site can follow the story of each rock, apprendre what happened to the rock – and follow it to its ultimate destination, like Antarctica in the case of meteorites.
For some of the samples taken from the Moon, it is possible to look at actual images of the specimen collected by the astronaut. Also on the website is the first sample ever collected from the Moon - the contingency sample from Apollo 11 collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong - and three more from Apollo 17. Additional images from the Apollo era will be available as new missions come online.
An ebony for all scientists around the world
Each sample offers cutting edge views of the material inside. This is possible without resorting to destructive techniques to examine its composition and origins.
On the website there is a "scanned version of the rock, a 3D visualization of the real thingBlumenfeld noted. “So he uses technology current to get a high enough resolution, what we call a research grade 3D model. "
To create these models, the multidisciplinary team manually photographed the rocks from at least 240 different angles. This work was carried out on rock enclosed in a nitrogen cabinet in the clean room using very high resolution photographs. Then, each was scanned using x-ray computed tomography (CT).
Internal and external scans are integrated into the Explorer site, where you can see both the inside and the outside of the sample simultaneously and dissect it virtually.
This modernization of documentation practices in the field of conservation also creates better opportunities for science targeted. "This is a new first step for scans, as CT scans provide analysis in themselves - and this data can now be downloaded and imported into other the software solutions that a researcher can then question and make very good determinations about what the rock is made of Blumenfeld said.
Sharing the entire NASA collection
The site currently includes 10 meteorites and 10 lunar samples. In early summer 2021, additional samples from NASA's Astromaterial Sample Collection will be available.
"The rocks have sparked curiosity and wonder in us from the start“Said Blumenfeld. "I think there has been an amazing relationship between humans and rocks for as long as we are on the planet. And, the fact that these rocks also refer to our planet and how our planet was formed, and what is beyond our planet, is really my motivation. It's about connecting these incredible connections across the cosmos, understanding that we are inextricably linked to them. It is thanks to the study of astromaterials that we were finally able to correlate the fact that we are made of stars. "
And while our own origins may be easier to trace, people around the world will now be able to do their own research to find out where and how it all started.
The site was created by a team of NASA Johnson's Astromaterials Research and Exploration Division.
Author: Catherine Ragin Williams, NASA Johnson Space Center
You may like to discover Science: For the first time, we have a high definition image of the Hull Nebula located almost 8500 light years from Earth et 10 real facts you probably don't know about the marine world