This lunar material container was used during the Apollo Era to transport and store moon rocks in the Vacuum Laboratory of the Manned Spacecraft Center's Lunar Receiving Laboratory. It is amazingly engineered, stainless steel vessel with bolts to secure the lunar sample to prevent contamination.
The accompanying tag, which was sealed in the bag that this container came in, indicates that it was cleaned in 1971 indicating that at one time it contained rocks from Apollo 11 and / or Apollo 12.
The Bolt-Top Container (BTC) was the primary storage and transport device used for lunar material. The BTC held a vacuum of pure nitrogen gas, which is inert and does not react with the lunar material inside.
This BTC was received by me in it's original double sealed vacuum bag. This is the first time this BTC has seen the day of light in over 35 years. The last person to handle this artifact was a lunar scientist in the LRL. These artifacts were sterilized after use and vacuum sealed for future use. Rigorous procedures were used to sterilize BTCs before being transfered into various cabinets in the LRL. The surface of the BTC was sprayed with peracetic acid in the R-102 (LRL atmospheric decontamination) cabinet . After 30 minutes of soak-time, the acid was removed by sterile water spray, then dried. This process provided biocidal sterilization without heat, as heat would alter the lunar material.
The photo below (NASA S69-45002, 26 July 1969) shows a close-up view of the lunar rocks contained in the first Apollo 11 sample return container. The rock box was opened for the first time in the Vacuum Laboratory of the Manned Spacecraft Center's Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Building 37, at 3:55 p.m. (CDT), Saturday, July 26, 1969. The gloved hand gives an indication of size. This box also contained the Solar Wind Composition experiment (not shown) and two core tubes for subsurface samples (not shown). These lunar samples were collected by astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. during their lunar surface extravehicular activity on July 20, 1969. Note the BTCs in the background at the top of the photo. (Click for a larger view).
Thanks to Mike Bandli for the technical description of this artifact