Want to touch a moon rock? You’re in luck because you can do just that at some museums in the U.S.
All of the touchable moon rock samples in these museums are actually cut from the same rock, a large 18-pound basalt sample known as number 70215, which was collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and is estimated to be 3.8 billion years old.
The following is a list of places where you can touch a moon rock:
National Air and Space Museum:
Address: 6th Street and Independence Ave SW, Washington D.C.
Established in 1976, the National Air and Space Museum is a free aviation and space museum in Washington D.C.
The museum features aviation and spaceflight artifacts such as the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, Charles Lindbergh’s plane the Spirit of St. Louis, the Wright brother’s plane Wright Flyer and the Friendship 7 capsule flown by astronaut John Glenn.
The museum also features a moon rock that visitors can touch which is housed in its collection of five lunar samples on display at the museum’s Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
The other lunar samples in the collection include lunar soil collected during the Apollo 17 mission, anorthosite (rock from the Highland region of the moon) from the Apollo 16 mission, breccia (rock fragments from meteor strikes) from the Apollo 17 mission and a basalt sample from the Apollo 15 mission.
The touchable moon rock is on loan from NASA and was collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, which was the last lunar landing mission.
The rock is made of basalt and was collected at the moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow on the edge of Mare Serenitatis (the Sea of Serenity.) It is a dark, fine-grained, igneous rock that is rich in magnesium, iron and plagioclase feldspar but features more titanium than basalt samples from earth.
The sample was cut from a large 18-pound rock, a basalt sample known as number 70215, collected by the only geologist who took part in the mission, Jack Schmitt.
It is one of only a few touchable lunar sample displays in the world and was the very first touchable moon rock exhibit when the museum first opened in 1976.
The National Air and Space Museum is owned and operated by the Smithsonian Institute.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex:
Address: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL
Established in 1962, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a space museum in Florida.
The visitor complex features exhibits on the various space missions dating from the beginning of the space program to current missions.
The visitor complex also features a moon rock sample that visitors can touch. The sample was collected during the Apollo 17 mission and was cut from a large 18-pound basalt sample known as number 70215.
The moon rock is such a popular attraction that the visitor complex even named their on-site cafe, the Moon Rock Cafe, after it.
The Kennedy Space Center and the visitor complex are owned by NASA and are operated by NASA contractor, Delaware North.
Space Center Houston:
Address: 1601 E NASA Pkwy, Houston, TX
Established in 1992, Space Center Houston is a space museum in Texas.
The center also features a moon rock sample that visitors can touch, which is a sample cut from a large 18-pound lunar basalt sample known as number 70215 that was collected during the Apollo 17 mission.
In addition, visitors can also check out a cross-section of a lunar sample under a microscope. These samples are stored in the lunar vault at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at the center.
The other lunar samples in the collection include lunar basalt and lunar breccia from the Apollo 15 mission and lunar anthorsite from the Apollo 16 mission and the Apollo 17 mission.
The center is owned by NASA and is operated by the nonprofit Manned Spaceflight Education Foundation.
“Space Center Houston Adds New Lunar Sample.” Space Center Houston, spacecenter.org/new-lunar-sample
“Lunar Sample Vault.” Space Center Houston, spacecenter.org/exhibits-and-experiences/starship-gallery/lunar-samples-vault/
Maksel, Rebecca. “How the Museum Got Its Moon Rock.” Smithsonian Magazine, December 2019, mithsonianmag.com/air-space-magazine/few-ounces-knowledge-180973592/
Stamm, Amy. “Touching a Piece of the Moon.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/touching-piece-moon
“Moon Rock Sliced.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/multimedia-gallery/s74-24789jpg
“The Long Journey of the Lunar Touchrock.” National Air and Space Museum, 16 June. 2016, airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/long-journey-our-lunar-touchrock
“Lunar Rocks.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/explore/stories/lunar-rocks
“Moon Rock.” National Air and Space Museum, airandspace.si.edu/multimedia-gallery/2005-3746640jpg
“Lunar Samples Vault.” Space Center Houston, spacecenter.org/exhibits-and-experiences/starship-gallery/lunar-samples-vault/
“Exploring the Moon.” Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, kennedyspacecenter.com/explore-attractions/race-to-the-moon/exploring-the-moon