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Six Cambridge scientists have been selected to examine the lunar material collected by the astronauts of Apollo 11 and subsequent moon shots. The investigators, two of them Harvard professors, will test the samples lunar crust for such qualities as mineral content, age, and possible traces of life.
The results of these tests could help to answer such important question as the composition of the moon's surface, the age of the moon and its origin.
Professor Patrick Hurley of M.I.T., who will be working with radioactive isotopes in determining the age of the samples, explained that the dating process was important to the controversy surrounding the origin of the moon. The results could clarify whether the moon was a meteorite pulled into orbit by the earth's gravity or whether it was once part of the earth.
The scientists, Clifford Frondel and Elso Barghoorn of Harvard Hurley, Klaus Biemann and of Harvard Hurley, Klaus Biemann and Gene Simmons of M.I.T. and Dr. John Wood of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, were chosen on the basis of proposals submitted by them to NASA and judged by a team of experts. Approximately 150 investigators were approved, according to previous work in minerology, geology and related fields.
The samples, and lumps of rock, will be collected by the astronauts and stored in air-tight boxes. Wood pointed out that this procedure insures that "a sample of the lunar vacuum will be preserved to guard against contamination by the earth's atmosphere.
Wood, a minerologist, will examine the composition of the samples. The testing procedures will be much the same those used on earth materials and he expects the lunar materials to be much like those on earth.
Little Chance of Life
Although Wood thinks the change that any trace of life will be found on the moon is "highly unlikely," he added that the results of his tests are hard to anticipate. He feels that the break-down of the samples could reveal much about the possibility of volcanic activity on the moon. Also, the data could strengthen the theory that there was once water on the moon.
The investigators will receive the samples in mid-September, after a special team of four scientists, including Frondell, has made preliminary tests. They will submit the results of their work at a conference in Houston, Texas, in January.
Plans have been made to display some of the samples to the public at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in September.
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