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NASA Loans Moon Rock to Anchorage Museum



Feb. 3, 2010

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is loaning a lunar sample to the Anchorage Museum for display. This is the first moon rock loaned to an Alaska museum by the Johnson Space Center, the NASA center that administers and controls the lunar display loan program.

The moon rock on its way to Anchorage is 3.3 billion years old. It weighs 110 grams, or about 4 ounces, and is about the size of a plum.

Anchorage Museum visitors can see the moon rock in the museum's new Imaginarium Discovery Center, which opens May 22. The moon rock will be highlighted in a space science exhibit, which also features a meteorite and an Alaska rock geologically similar to the lunar sample. The exhibit explains what these rocks reveal about the solar system's origins. Anchorage Museum science educators are developing exhibit content with assistance from U.S. Geological Survey, a federal scientific agency.

"The Anchorage Museum is excited to collaborate with NASA on several projects, including the loan of the lunar sample," said James Pepper Henry, Anchorage Museum Director and CEO. "The moon rock is a testament to the achievements and potential of humankind for exploration beyond our terrestrial home Our museum visitors will be amazed at experiencing firsthand an extraterrestrial item returned from the only heavenly body ever visited by humans."

The lunar sample (designated 15555,919) that will be displayed at the Anchorage Museum was collected during the 1971 Apollo 15 mission with astronauts Jim Irwin, Dave Scott and Al Worden. This was the fourth mission to land on the moon, focusing on the Hadley-Apennine region of the lunar surface. During this mission, astronauts used the first lunar roving vehicle, allowing them to cover more ground and collect more varied samples.

The parent sample (known as the "great Scott rock") from which the display sample was cut weighed 9,614 grams, or about 21 pounds. Collected by astronaut Scott, this rock was the largest returned to Earth up to that time. A blocky, angular, vuggy (holey) rock of brownish-gray color, its texture is homogeneous with medium-to-coarse grain. It is a basalt (volcanic) rock composed of 55 percent pyroxene, 26 percent plagioclase, 15 percent olivine, 3.5 percent opaque minerals and .5 percent cristobalite.

The Anchorage Museum submitted its lunar sample loan application to NASA in April 2009, and received a five-year loan agreement Tuesday.

The Anchorage Museum is the largest museum in Alaska, and one of the top 10 most visited attractions in the state. The museum's mission is to share and connect Alaska with the world through art, history and science.

Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday. General admission is $10, $8 seniors/students/military, free for ages 17 and younger. Coming May 22: The Imaginarium Discovery Center and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. Learn more online at wwwanchoragemuseum.org.
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