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Davis Journal

Touching the surface of the Moon

May 27, 2022 10:46AM ● By Becky Ginos

Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, uses an adjustable sampling scoop to retrieve lunar samples during the second Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA), at Station 5 at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Photo courtesy of NASA

CLEARFIELD—When astronauts first walked on the surface of the Moon everyone here on Earth watched in amazement. With each Apollo mission they brought back samples of what they found. Now the public can get a firsthand look at Moon rocks without ever leaving Earth as the Clearfield Branch Library hosts a NASA program about them.

“The NASA program allows educators that are certified to borrow moon rocks for a given time frame,” said Northern Utah NASA Solar System Ambassador Jennifer Jones, who is also a junior high teacher. “We have to be careful they’re a priceless national treasure. It’s fun to show them to students and at the library. It gives kids a better concept that the Moon is real, something physical that they can touch.”

Jones received the samples from the Johnson Space Center. “The vast majority are housed there,” she said. “They are sealed in plastic. Then there are analog samples that are not sealed. They were either found or created on Earth but in close approximation of the Moon. Guests can hold and look at them. They can shake them and interact with them more closely.”

Jones is in her second year as a NASA Ambassador. “I’m trained in STEM education to go to other schools to try and get more students interested in STEM and space education in K-12,” she said. “We hope to help them understand STEM and space so that they grow up and want to go into the STEM and space field.”

It’s been a fun ride, she said. “It’s exciting to train with NASA and go to schools to talk about current missions and discoveries. When it gets closer to the Artemis launch I’ll do a bunch of presentations.”

She has also been selected to go to the Mars Desert Research Station. “It’s near Hanksville in an area that looks like Mars,” said Jones. “I’ll be playing astronaut for a couple of weeks. It’s a prototype of a Martian base where scientists can go experience what it’s like so they can do experiments someday on the red planet.”

The presentation will also include a discussion on how the Moon was formed, she said. “The Giant impact theory suggests it was a collision between the Earth and another slightly smaller Mars-like planet and it threw crust out into space that created the Moon but the majority was out of the Earth’s crust.”

The dark patches on the Moon are craters from where meteors hit, said Jones. “They’re filled with molten lava from inside the Moon when it was warmer and much younger. Now it’s rather dead and there’s not a lot of geological activities.”

It was formed about the same time as Earth, she said. “It gives us an idea of what it was like before. The Moon has never had life and the craters have never been covered over so we can see what the surface of the Earth was like early on 4 billion years ago.”

Jones will also be talking about the upcoming Artemis mission scheduled for August. “It will launch from Earth and create an orbital platform on the surface of the Moon where astronauts can live and work as a gateway to launch a mission to Mars.”

This is so exciting, she said. “I’m blown away with how much I learn. I’m excited to bring the information back and share it.”

The Moon rock presentation will be on Wednesday, May 25, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at the Clearfield Branch, 1 N. Main St. λ