The soil and rock samples in these disks were returned to the Earth from the Moon during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions in the early 1970s. The samples are of the following types:
This white rock is composed almost entirely of crystals of one mineral, feldspar, from the highlands of the moon.
Anorthosite rocks are also found on Earth and can be studied as analogues of lunar anorthosite.
This rock is made of fragments of other rocks that were broken by collisions of meteorites with the Moon. The fragments were heated by these collisions that broke them apart, so that sharp edges melted and stuck to other grains to form new rock.
This is the dark rock that makes up the Mare of the Moon. Produced by cooling magma, it flowed into the lower lying land of the Moon, produce the dark ‘seas’ you can make out on the Moon.
Basalt rocks are also found on Earth and can be studied as analogues of lunar basalt.
The Mare (or ‘seas’ as they are sometimes called as that is how they looked to early observers – even though they are not actually seas) are the dark regions that you can sometimes make out on the Moon. This soil was produced by meteorites hitting basalt rocks (note that basalt samples are also featured in the disks) and breaking it into many smaller pieces.
The fragments that make up this soil are from the breakup of highlands rocks by meteorites. The rocks in the highlands of the Moon are much older than those in the mare. The soil is made up of particles of rocks, of broken mineral grains, and of glasses melted from rocks and minerals by the impacts of meteorites on the Moon’s surface.
This strange soil is a mixture of dark red and black balls, and broken pieces of them. This soil was made 3.5 billion years ago from sprays of lava blown out of a volcano which cooled and formed glass balls.
The teacher guide shows a labelled version of one of the lunar disks that can help you to see which mission each sample came from as well as more information on the samples themselves.
All images on this page are credit to National Space Centre unless otherwise stated.
A video showing an Apollo lunar disk.
(Credit: National Space Centre)
Last updated: 15 March 2019