Sunday, April 05, 2009

Moon Rock for the Touching

That's a sliver of moon rock you can touch at a special exhibit at the Cosmosphere through Monday.

This is lunar sample 70215.11, and one of only seven pieces of moon rock that are available for the public to touch. This fragment weighs about 7/10 of an ounce. It came from a rock that weighed more than 16 pounds. It's 3.75 billion years old - older than most rocks on Earth, just in case you were keeping track.

This NASA traveling exhibit is in a small trailer parked beside the Cosmosphere's front door. It contains information on the space program's mission to go to the Moon, Mars and Beyond.

It's ingenious, really. You can read some exhibits, touch the rock, and have an opportunity to get a free photo that looks like you're in a space suit on the moon, Saturn, or other far-flung locales.

The rock is under a small piece of plastic. And don't get any ideas, it's very secure. The guys traveling from Houston with the exhibit tell me they do clean it every day so you're actually touching rock, not the residue from the last few thousand people who touched it.

July 20, 1969 was the first manned moon landing, so we'll celebrate the 40th anniversary soon. In the 13 years after that initial visit, we made six more landings, and collected 842 pounds of lunar samples. This one was collected by Astronaut Jack Schmitt in 1972, near where the lunar module landed during the last visit humans made to the moon on Apollo 17.

For those of us who grew up with the space program, it's encouraging to see a new generation experiencing some of that excitement.

I can't say this young lady was feeling the same excitement I did when I was about her age and went outside to look up at the moon, knowing there were men walking around on it for the first time, but I hope she's feeling something - a sense of excitement, possibilities, the thrill of exploration, or a new appreciation of science.

I love to see NASA doing these sorts of programs - not only because I got to touch a moon rock, but because it's a way to share the thrill of exploration with new generations as we prepare to return to the moon.

You can go touch the moon rock from 9-5 Monday, for free. After Monday they're headed on down the road. Don't miss it. 
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