NASA Says First Person On Mars Likely a Woman

Cristina Cross
March 14, 2019

The moon has been keeping secrets for billions of years, but we've had samples of lunar regolith right here on Earth that haven't even been looked at since they were brought back from the Apollo missions nearly 50 years ago. The sample has been stored at NASA's Johnson Space Center since December 1972. Some of the samples are from Apollo 15 and have been stored in helium since 1971.

The first six women selected to be NASA astronauts: (back row, left to right) Kathryn Sullivan, Shannon W. Lucid, Anna L. Fischer, Judith Resnik, (seated left to right) Sally K. Ride and M. Rhea Seddon. The sample is made up of approximately 800 grams of material and is still in a "drive tube" pounded in the lunar regolith, a layer of unconsolidated rocky material covering bedrock.

"These are important new results about lunar water, a hot topic as our nation's space program returns to a focus on lunar exploration", said LAMP principal investigator Dr. Kurt Retherford, also from Southwest Research Institute. "We are now understanding better how hard this project is and that it is going to take some additional time".

The first person to set foot on Mars is likely to be a woman, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said. Trump is proposing more than $21 billion for the space agency this year. Bridenstine stated, "when we go to the Moon, we will stay".

"Returned samples are an investment in the future", Lori Glaze, acting director of the planetary science division, said in the release.

The Space Launch System was supposed to launch the Orion spacecraft in an uncrewed mission in orbit the moon no later than June 2020.

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"Lunar hydration is tricky to measure from orbit, due to the complex way that light reflects off of the lunar surface", said study co-author Dr. Michael Poston, a research scientist at Southwest Research Institute.

Koch and McClain's spacewalk will mark only the fourth time in history that two women have served together on an expedition crew to the station.

Team lead Kees Welten of the University of California Berkeley and his researchers will study the effects of meteorites and micrometeorites head-butting the moon. Darby Dyar's group from Mount Holyoke College will look for tiny glass beads in the samples that would have formed during volcanic eruptions.

As for what's next, the space agency says that teams won't open the samples right away.

The particular sample these teams will study came to Earth vacuum-sealed on the Moon by the Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan in 1972.

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