Celebrating 170 years: an Apollo 17 connection

Celebrating 170 years: an Apollo 17 connection

WashU’s research activities span the globe and even go beyond Earth’s atmosphere to outer space.

Washington University in St. Louis marks its 170th anniversary this February. On Feb. 22, 1853, Missouri Gov. Sterling Price signed a Charter that brought Eliot Seminary, the institution that became Washington University, into existence.

With the following 17 decades came new names, the construction and near-constant improvement of multiple campuses, and dazzling growth in size, prestige and productivity. Our history also happens to include many moments in which the number seven plays a starring or supporting role. 

As part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis initiative, scientists in the departments of physics and Earth and planetary sciences are helping to recover gases from a container of lunar soil that Apollo 17 astronauts collected on the surface of the Moon more than 50 years ago.

The WashU researchers designed and built the extraction manifold apparatus used at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to carefully open the vacuum-sealed containers in 2022. Information gathered from the samples will help inform NASA’s Artemis missions, an effort that Brad Jolliff, the Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, sees as essential for the next generation of space exploration.

Discover more significant sevens as a window to WashU’s many milestones from the last 170 years.

Header image: Cupples II circa 1905 (Washington University Archives)