3 Things Moon Rock Taught NASA About the Moon

Moon rock from Apollo 17

by Todd Jackson

The Moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions are in the news thanks to the return, to an Alaska museum, of a piece of rock from the Apollo 11 mission that had been missing since 1973.

The study of the Moon rocks has yielded significant new knowledge, including these three facts:

1) Moon Rock has in its makeup neither life nor water. There is no sandstone, no limestone, and no shale, the making of which requires water in some way-whether that be sedimentation or absorbing lime from the shells of sea creatures. There is no life, nor evidence that there ever was life, in Moon rock. All Moon rocks were formed through means related to pressure.

2) Moon rocks are enormously old, so old that the youngest we have from the Apollo missions is are close to as old as the very oldest stones we have found on Earth. Earth, with its winds, water whether in the form of rain or tsunami surges, and above all its volcanism, is a tremendously corrosive place to persist if you’re a rock, certainly compared to the Moon. The Moon is an environment where old things typically stay preserved and, typically, new things never happen at all.

3) And yet we know that the Moon was not some alien planet that one day wandered too close, but was made from the same body or material pool as the Earth. This is evident from their having the same oxygen isotopic signature-in other words, we know this from the Moon rocks. We know this even though the distribution of metals and other elements is different in the two groups of rocks.

Most other Apollo missions were ambitious about geological work than Apollo 11, and collected more rocks. For geologic exploration, the prize certainly goes to Apollo 17, the final mission and, so far, the last time humans set foot on the Moon. The Apollo 17 crew collected 243 pounds of Moon rock, over ten times what Apollo 11 collected. Harrison Schmitt was the only trained scientist to visit the Moon, and Gene Cernan had been trained exhaustively in geology and had become an acute field observer in his own right. Apollo 17′s astronauts went beyond merely collecting from the surface and performed a core drill into the regolith, as well as taking over two thousand on site photographs.

Of course, the glamour of Apollo 11, as the first mission to actually have a human set foot on the Moon, gives its samples a special value apart from their scientific interest.

When Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon in July 1969 and uttered the words “We came in peace for all mankind,” President Richard Nixon apparently took his words to heart. He arranged to have pieces of Moon rock distributed to every state in the country, and every country on Earth, mounted on a commemorative plaque.

The rock that was given to Alaska disappeared after a fire in 1973. Alaska thus joined a list of Moon rock recipients who lost their stones, a list that includes Ireland, Nicaragua, and the Isle of Malta. The Alaska rock reappeared in an obscure warehouse in Minnesota. It is still unknown how it came to its location, how long it had been there, or how it was removed from the fire, which was determined to have been caused by an arsonist.

7 Responses to 3 Things Moon Rock Taught NASA About the Moon

  1. smokey March 29, 2013 at 6:25 am

    I have moon rock smokyandmoore Facebook getting it tested

  2. cloudchasersakonige December 9, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    What are you talking about, the moon IS made of cheese! No need to waste time checking for yourself, just believe everything I say.

  3. politics December 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    from Todd Jackson

    If you enjoy this, perhaps you would also like my thoughts on the direction of today’s space program:



  4. bullsballs December 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    unfortunately, most humans could care less about the value of items placed in their care.

    • Mwap December 10, 2012 at 2:37 am

      I’m glad they could care less. Imagine if they couldn’t.


We will read your comment immediately so leave a remark!

RSS Guardian Express

  • Why Andre Johnson Why? April 17, 2014
    After reading the reports that rapper Andre Johnson, who did work with members of the Wu-Tang Clan band, chopped his own penis off and then leaped from a second story balcony in what must have been an apparent suicide attempt, it leaves a person wondering, why Andre why? The police discovered him lying on the […]
    Kimberly Ruble
  • Milwaukee Bucks Staying Put After Team Is Sold April 17, 2014
    Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl gives an emotional interview when speaking of the sale and the future of the Bucks, proud to announce they will stay in Milwaukee. The sale of the Bucks was not an easy decision for Kohl; although he will keep a percentage in the team, he will no longer have control […]
    Jabar Morarend
  • Thai Protest Could Affect Economy April 17, 2014
    The Thai protest could finally be affecting the economy of Thailand. Some people believe that they are losing business because of the protest. A mobile salesperson named Sakuntala Mettawong thinks that he is losing business at his shop at MBK, which is one of the largest malls in Bangkok. At peak times of the day, […]
    Tom Clark
  • Britain Branded the Most Sexist Country in the World April 17, 2014
    UN spokeswoman for violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, has in some rather controversial comments branded Britain the most sexist country in the world, sparking a fierce defensive backlash in the British media. On a recent visit to the country, the UN envoy claimed that the sexism exhibited in the UK was more “in your face” […]
    Rhona Scullion
  • Autism Help for Children May Come From App April 17, 2014
    A new app called Skill Champ is now available for download on iPad. The help that may come from this new app, which is geared towards children with autism, has the potential for big results. In fact, the family of one Skill Champ user calls the app life-changing. Emily Mack, who is 11 years old, […]
    Ashley Campbell

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 629 other subscribers