This might be a stupid question, but I can't find and don't know the answer:

Everyone knows that Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were the first men to land on/ walk on the moon. But were they the first to physically touch the moon?

I assume dust particles contaminated their suits and the LM and no doubt they inadvertently made contact, but did they actually deliberately skin-to-sample touch (as opposed to through an EVA suit) the moon rock samples? Or were they preserved for analysis on Earth?

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    $\begingroup$ Skin to sample touch should be avoided to minimize contamination. The samples should be transported in sealed vacuum containers. Handling samples on Earth was done in vacuum glove boxes, at least in the first years after Moon landing. Glove boxes filled with clean and dry nitrogen were used later. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Sample_Laboratory_Facility $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 25 '17 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ Even if they were preserved, at least some rocks have been touched. See Moon Rock $\endgroup$ – Dan Pichelman Oct 25 '17 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Some rocks may be used for public exhibition and touching, but the majority of the material should be kept untouched for future analysis by using new methods and instruments. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 26 '17 at 17:09

First of all, there are many Lunar Meteorites that have been found, but I'm assuming you don't mean those.

The first bits of the Apollo moon rocks to be touched were dust inadvertently touched by the 2 astronauts that landed on the Moon. All of them touched at least some dust samples on the return trip that were contained outside of the container. Some of it might have been deliberate, see the transcripts:

05 11 13 55 CMP How big are the rocks that you just scurried around and picked up with the tongs? Good gravy! Beautiful! Just crack those guys open and get a - you know, virgin interior of them in a vacuum, and they'll have a ball. ...

05 11 14 19 CMP Hey, the Velcro - the Velcro around them sort of ...

In addition, the workers who helped the astronauts get out of the Apollo capsule are known to have touched at least some dust. One of their jobs was to get dust off their suits by using tape.

The next candidate are the samples that were sent to world leaders from Apollo 11. While there is no record of the dust that was put in to the display being touched, it seems quite likely that it was at some point in time.

I have searched for some kind of a record of a scientist mishandling one of the moon rocks, and I can't find any definitive record of such.

There are 3 rocks that the public may touch with their bare hands. The first of these went on display in 1976.

In addition, there is a few Apollo rocks that have been stole, and likely touched.

  • $\begingroup$ In the transcript you quote, aren't the crew members suited? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 25 '17 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ No, that exchange seems to have happened when they reunited with the command module. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Oct 25 '17 at 21:00

The first person to touch the moon rocks was, which I am very proud to say, my great grandfather Leonard C. Jones. He was chosen to be the leader of the team of scientists that would recieve the apollo11 rocks. He was the very first of anyone there to touch those rocks with his bare hands.

You can find the newspaper article in the st louis post dispatch archives if you have a subscription. You can also find this information by searching on google "Leonard C. Jones find a grave."

  • $\begingroup$ I believe he was so careful not to touch all of those rocks with his bare hands, but only one small sample of a single rock, not more. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Feb 21 '18 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ZachJones in that case please make your great grandfather proud of you by first taking a moment to take the tour and to visit the help center! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 22 '18 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ That's a very good reference in the proposed edit you made - except, don't edit your answer telling people to google something. You should google it, get the information and edit it into your answer, citing the reference. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 22 '18 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ I recommend reading this Nasa paper and this Wikipedia article about handling samples from the moon using vacuum glove boxes to avoid any contamination (page 9). Handling samples in a glove box and touching them with bare hands are two very different things. You should edit your answer and replace "bare hands" with "hands in glove boxes". $\endgroup$ – Uwe Feb 22 '18 at 10:17

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