An analysis of Apollo lunar soil samples 12070,889, 12030,187, and 12070,891: Basaltic diversity at the Apollo 12 landing site and implications for classification of small-sized lunar samples

1,2Louise Alexander,2,3Joshua F. Snape,4Katherine H. Joy,1,2Hilary Downes,1,2Ian A. Crawford
Meteoritics & Planetary Science (in Press) Link to Article [DOI: 10.1111/maps.12689]
1Department of Earth and Planetary Science, Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK
2The Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL-Birkbeck, London, UK
3Department of Geosciences, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden
4School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons

Lunar mare basalts provide insights into the compositional diversity of the Moon’s interior. Basalt fragments from the lunar regolith can potentially sample lava flows from regions of the Moon not previously visited, thus, increasing our understanding of lunar geological evolution. As part of a study of basaltic diversity at the Apollo 12 landing site, detailed petrological and geochemical data are provided here for 13 basaltic chips. In addition to bulk chemistry, we have analyzed the major, minor, and trace element chemistry of mineral phases which highlight differences between basalt groups. Where samples contain olivine, the equilibrium parent melt magnesium number (Mg#; atomic Mg/[Mg + Fe]) can be calculated to estimate parent melt composition. Ilmenite and plagioclase chemistry can also determine differences between basalt groups. We conclude that samples of approximately 1–2 mm in size can be categorized provided that appropriate mineral phases (olivine, plagioclase, and ilmenite) are present. Where samples are fine-grained (grain size <0.3 mm), a “paired samples t-test” can provide a statistical comparison between a particular sample and known lunar basalts. Of the fragments analyzed here, three are found to belong to each of the previously identified olivine and ilmenite basalt suites, four to the pigeonite basalt suite, one is an olivine cumulate, and two could not be categorized because of their coarse grain sizes and lack of appropriate mineral phases. Our approach introduces methods that can be used to investigate small sample sizes (i.e., fines) from future sample return missions to investigate lava flow diversity and petrological significance.

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