A team of meteorite
hunters from the NASA-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, discovered
five new pieces of the Moon during an expedition to Antarctica in December 2018
and January 2019, and mineralogical analysis confirms their origin.
They were found in the
Transantarctic Mountains and add up to nearly 100 grams (about as heavy as four
double-A batteries), in an ice field roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) from
the South Pole.
The meteorites were
characterized as “unmistakably lunar” by curatorial scientists at the
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, involved in
classification of the US Antarctic meteorites.
The new samples are a breccia,
a type of rock containing many angular fragments and welded together by impacts
on the Moon. The new specimens
bring the total of lunar basaltic breccias in the U.S. Antarctic meteorite
collection to nine, with others being recovered in 1987, 1994, 1996, and
“These new samples
give us an opportunity to continue learning about the Moon as we prepare for
future surface operations with the Artemis Program,” said Kevin Righter, Antarctic
meteorite curator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “The new samples may hold
previously unknown information about the evolution of the Moon, and the origin
and volatile contents of its basaltic rocks.”
NASA’s Artemis program
is part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars next step in human exploration, enabling
the first woman and next man to set foot on the Moon by 2024, and establishing a
sustainable exploration program with commercial and international partners by
2028. Artemis also is preparing for humanity’s next giant leap, human
exploration of Mars.
Meteorite Laboratory at Johnson will curate the new lunar samples, and make
them available to researchers for further study. The Johnson laboratory is responsible
for curating the active research collection of ANSMET samples, which began in
1976. The new samples, like the other extraterrestrial sample collections at Johnson,
will be available for detailed analysis in the laboratory and available to be
requested by scientists around the world for research.
“These samples are complementary
to the Apollo collection because they may come from locations on the Moon that
we didn’t visit during that program,” said Francis McCubbin, Astromaterials
Curator at Johnson. “Studying samples from across the Moon helps to better
develop a globally relevant understanding of the thermochemical evolution of
The U.S. ANSMET
program is a cooperative effort jointly supported by NASA’s Planetary Defense
Coordination Office; the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs,
which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program; and the Smithsonian Institution, as
part of a three-agency agreement signed in 1980 and renewed in 2017.
Antarctic field work logistics
are supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program and through a grant from NASA to
Case Western Reserve University; initial examination and curation of recovered
Antarctic meteorites is supported by NASA at the Astromaterials Curation
facilities at Johnson; and initial characterization and long-term curation of
Antarctic meteorite samples is supported by NASA and the Smithsonian
Institution at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Details of the initial
characterization of the specimen and sample availability are available through
a recent edition of the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter, released on the Web and available to
DOM 18666 in the cleanroom at NASA Johnson Space Center with 1 cm cube for scale .