Moon rock lands at Cartersville's Tellus Science Museum
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 15, 2013 | 2143 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Moon Rock
Tellus Science Museum Curator Julian Gray answers questions from the news media about the museum’s latest acquisition, a moon rock collected during the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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On long-term loan from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a moon rock is finding a new home at Tellus Science Museum.

“This is probably among the rarest mineral specimens you’re going to find anywhere, because there’s only about 900 pounds of rock brought back from all the missions. And we’re not going back anytime soon,” Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria said. “So there’s very few museums around the world that have a lunar sample, that have a moon rock. We’re only going to be the second one in Georgia and ours is going to be bigger than the one in Atlanta.”

Tellus’ lunar sample is a portion of a nearly 21-pound rock collected during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

According to a news release from Tellus Science Museum, “The original rock ... was at the time the largest rock collected on Apollo 15. Officially designated Lunar Sample 15555, it was nicknamed ‘Great Scott’ in honor of its collector [Astronaut Dave Scott]. The original rock has been sliced for analysis and to create exhibits like this one at Tellus and other museums around the world. This sample weighs about 100 grams or 4 ounces. The sample given to Tellus was prepared in the Lunar Sample Receiving Lab at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and hand carried by Tellus staff, Amy Gramsey and Julian Gray.

“The rock is basalt, an igneous rock composed of pyroxene, plagioclase feldspar, and olivine. It is a brownish-gray color and contains many small cavities. The age of the rock is 3.3 billion years as determined by radiogenic dating methods. It was found at the edge of a very subdued depression approximately 40 feet north of the rim of Hadley Rille.”

Referring to the overall appeal of this acquisition, Santamaria provided scientific and personal reasonings.

“It’s not a very exciting looking rock. It’s going to be gray and it’s going to look like concrete. [So its appeal] is just the fact that it represents a rock that’s probably almost 4 billion years old. This is real old stuff,” Santamaria said. “On Earth, the rocks get weathered away. ... So you don’t have rocks that old here. In the moon, the rocks, when they’re formed that’s it. They’re kind of frozen in time. So it gives us a snapshot of the very early formation of our planet and solar system. So that’s one thing from a science angle.

“From a more personal note, I’m of the generation who grew up with the space program. So I watched these guys walking on the moon live on TV and picking up rocks. So this to me represents one of the most incredible human achievements in history.”

While a definite date has yet to be set, Tellus staff hopes to display the lunar sample in mid-December. The specimen will be included in a space-related exhibit, also featuring three Apollo artifacts, which are on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum: Apollo Lunar Module Ascent Rocket Engine, a Rock Hammer and a Lunar Sample Return Container.

Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, Tellus is comprised of four main galleries — The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard hands-on science gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum has attracted more than 800,000 visitors since opening in January 2009.

For more information about Tellus and its upcoming events and programs, call 770-606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org.