Apollo and Luna sample return

apollo luna moon landing sites
Location of the Apollo and Luna sample return missions overlain on a USGS Clementine image of the Moon.

Sample return missions have brought back about 382 kg of rock from nine localities on the lunar nearside (see right). These samples have shed new light on the formation of the Moon; how the lunar crust formed; and how the crust was subsequently modified by magmatic and volcanic episodes and impact bombardment.

In Manchester we are studying a range of Apollo and Luna samples to address the following lunar science investigations (see more details here):

  • The petrological evolution of the lunar crust
  • The volcanic history of Mare Crisium (Luna 24) and Oceanus Procellarum (Apollo 12)
  • The impact and regolith history of the Apollo 16 highlands landing site
  • Characterising the sources of lunar impactors
  • The nature of polar volatiles
  • The halogen history of the lunar surface and interior 

Public Engagement

We are activity involved in sharing our excitement about lunar samples to the wider public. You can read lunar science news through the Earth and Solar System blog and come along to our public engagement events (watch the Earth and Solar System twitter feed or facebook group for event news) to hold a piece of the Moon!


  • Burgess R. and Turner G. (1998) Laser 40Ar-39Ar age determinations of Luna 24 mare basalts. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 33, 105-116.
  • Fernandes V. A. and Burgess R. (2005) Volcanism in Mare Fecunditatis and Mare Crisium: Ar-Ar studies. Meteoritics and Planetary Science 69, 4919-4934.
  • Joy K. H., Kring D. A., Bogard D. D., McKay D. S., and Zolensky M. E. (2011). Re-examination of the formation ages of Apollo 16 regolith breccias. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Vol. 75, pp. 7208-7225. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2011.09.018.
  • Joy K. H.,Zolensky M. E., Nagashima K., Huss G. R., McKay D. S., Ross D. K., and Kring D. A. (2012) Direct detection of projectile relics from the end of the lunar basin-forming epoch. Science. Vol. 336. No.6087. pp. 1426-1429. doi 10.1126/science.1219633.
  • Joy K. H., Visscher C., Zolensky M. E., Mikouchi T., Hagiya K., Ohsumi K., and Kring D. A. (2015). Identification of Magnetite in Lunar Regolith Breccia 60016: evidence for oxidised conditions at the lunar surface. Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Vol. 50. pp. 1157-1172. DOI: 10.1111/maps.12462
Trench digging and sample collection by Apollo field geology astronauts at Apollo 15. Image: NASA
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