“Just walk into Tellus, come around the corner, and there is a piece of the moon,” said Julian Gray, curator of Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville. “It is pretty amazing.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration approved a request from Tellus for a “permanent public lunar sample exhibit.” Translation: The wait is over; the moon rock is now on display.
“These are pretty rare,” Gray said. “NASA does give out samples of moon rocks, but ours is the only such display in Georgia.”
Tellus has big plans for the moon rock, and will use it as a focus for educational programs.
“This will benefit our program about space exploration greatly,” Gray said. “I think that Apollo is an incredible program and this is an actual physical piece that connects us to the Apollo program.”
NASA’s Apollo astronauts brought the rocks back from the surface of the moon. Tellus — off U.S. 411 North near Interstate 75 — grew out of the Weinmann Mineral Museum, and Gray said the rock is also of value in programs from their roots.
“This will help us teach about the geology of the moon as well,” he said. “I think that is cool because, for thousands of years, people looked up at the moon and wondered what it was and would we ever get to the moon. And now we have a piece of it on display here.”
The Tellus Lunar Sample is a piece of a larger rock — weighing about 21 pounds — that was collected by astronaut Dave Scott during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. Officially designated Lunar Sample 15555, it was nicknamed “Great Scott” in honor of its collector.
Tellus’ sample weighs about 108 grams or about 4 ounces. It was prepared at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and hand-carried to the museum by staffers Gray and Amy Gramsey.
Found near the rim of Hadley Rille — believed to be a lava flow channel — the basalt rock’s age has been radiogenically dated to 3.3 billion years.
The moon rock will be shown alongside three Apollo artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The Apollo Lunar Module ascent rocket engine, lunar sample return container and rock hammer were used in connection with the astronauts’ mission to the moon.
The items are on permanent exhibit in the Science in Motion Gallery.