Lunar and Planetary Institute






Apollo 14 Mission


Lunar Sample Overview

The Apollo 14 landing site was in the Fra Mauro formation, which is material ejected by the impact that produced the Imbrium Basin. As one would expect in a region formed by impact-basin debris, most of the 42 kilograms of rocks and soil collected on Apollo 14 are breccias (rocks that are composed of fragments of other, older rocks). The countless impacts that have sculpted the Moon's surface broke many rocks down into small fragments. The heat and pressure of such impacts can sometimes fuse these fragments into new rocks, called breccias. In some cases, the rock fragments that form a breccia are themselves breccias. Such rocks obviously have experienced complex histories with multiple generations of impact events. Some breccias were heated enough that some of the material in the rock was melted. Deciphering the histories of these rocks is a great challenge.

Many of these breccias include material enriched in KREEP. KREEP was first discovered on Apollo 12 but is much more abundant in Apollo 14 samples. Such rocks are enriched in potassium (denoted as K by chemists), rare earth elements (REE), and phosphorus (P). KREEP is believed to have formed early in the history of the Moon during the solidification of the Moon's molten stage, known as the magma ocean.

Although breccias dominate the Apollo 14 samples, some basalt samples were collected, usually as clasts (fragments) in breccias. Basalts are dark-colored rocks that solidified from molten lava and consist primarily of the minerals pyroxene and plagioclase. Generally, the Apollo 14 basalts are similar to basalts found in mare regions studied on other Apollo missions. However, the Apollo 14 basalts are generally richer in aluminum and sometimes richer in potassium than other lunar basalts. The Apollo 14 basalts formed 4.0 to 4.3 billion years ago, older than the volcanism observed at any of the mare locations studied during the Apollo program.

Apollo 14 breccia 14321 Apollo 14 breccia 14321, "Big Bertha." This sample has a mass of 9 kilograms and is up to 23 centimeters across. It was collected near the rim of Cone Crater and was probably ejected from a depth of 60 to 80 meters below the lunar surface. NASA/Johnson Space Center photograph S71-29184.
   
Apollo 14 breccia 14064 Apollo 14 breccia 14064. This sample has a mass of 108 grams and is up to 6 centimeters across. It was collected from White Rock near the rim of Cone Crater. NASA/Johnson Space Center photograph S71-32447.
   
Apollo 14 basalt 14053. Apollo 14 basalt 14053. This sample has a mass of 251 grams and is up to 8 centimeters across. It is one of the few Apollo 14 rocks that is not a breccia. NASA/Johnson Space Center photograph S71-35854.

Collecting Moon Rocks
This document describes the tools and procedures used by the Apollo astronauts to collect lunar samples.

The Lunar Sample Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center stores the lunar samples and distributes them to qualified researchers for study. This link connects to a website at the Johnson Space Center that provides a virtual tour of the Lunar Sample Laboratory.