Bruce Dice Mineralogical Museum acquiring a moon rock

On November 19, Dr. Renee Sparks, a professor of geology at Calvin, will bring us the moon.

Through a program administered by NASA’s Lunar Collection, museums are able to apply for short-term loans of geologic samples. This winter, the Bruce Dice Mineralogical Museum here at Calvin is privileged to receive a piece of moon rock named “Great Scott” on a short-term loan from NASA.

At 9614 grams (just over 21 lbs.), “Great Scott” was one of the largest lunar samples collected on Apollo 15 (July 26, 1971- Aug. 7, 1971), which was “the fourth mission to land men on the moon,” and “the first flight of the Lunar Roving Vehicle which astronauts used to explore the geology of the Hadley Rille/Apennine region,” according to the National Air and Space Museum.

“Great Scott” comes from a younger part of our moon- NASA dates it at 3.3 billion years old, while the full moon is dated at 4.5 billion.

Formally known as Lunar Sample 15555, “Great Scott” is now divided into dozens of sample pieces for research and display. The Dice is receiving sample number 15555, 42 (0.32)d, which weighs 92.5 grams (less than ⅓ of a pound).

Fine-grained and composed primarily of plagioclase with olivine and pyroxene phenocrysts, according to NASA, 15555 falls into the category of basaltic rocks, which are formed when basaltic lava cools rapidly at the earth’s surface.

Borrowing a lunar or other astronomic display sample from NASA is a rigorous process, beginning with a written application.“You have to prove you have a secure facility to display it,” said Dr. Sparks, who originally applied for a non-lunar display sample. Upon reading about the excellent Dice museum and it’s three meteorites, a loan program manager at NASA responded to Dr. Sparks’ application with the better offer of “Great Scott.”

In November, Dr. Sparks will fly to Houston, TX, to collect “Great Scott.” Mailing out samples poses a variety of risks, so NASA requires their loans be picked up in person and returned in the same fashion. The person transporting the precious sample must be highly vigilant, until the sample has safely arrived in the Dice Museum, “it has to be in my sight at all times,” Dr. Sparks said.   

To celebrate the arrival of “Great Scott,” the Science Division is planning a reception for the week after Thanksgiving, details forthcoming.

In light of the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, now is an excellent time to view a lunar sample and get excited about all things astronomy.