To acquaint students with various types of Earth rocks.
To learn more about the locations and geology of the six
Apollo landing sites.
To learn how the astronauts collected soil and rock samples.
To compare the basic types of Earth rocks to those brought
back from the Moon.
To make predictions about the origin of lunar rocks.
NETS Standards Categories
supported 5, 6
1. Rock Collecting
Between 1969 and 1972 the six
Apollo missions that landed astronauts on the Moon returned
a collection of over 2,000 soil and rock samples that weighed
382 kilograms (842 pounds). (Related activity - graphing
(If you want students to work independently,
print out the rock
collection sheet and have them use the Collecting
Rocks page to guide them.)
Have students visit the Rock
Hounds site to see how rocks can be collected on Earth.
At this site they can learn more about different rock types
and tools used to collect samples on Earth. See Rock Hounds
Project - http://www.fi.edu/fellows/fellow1/oct98/index.html
The pressure suits worn by
the Apollo astronauts restricted their mobility, particularly
their ability to bend over, while on the Moon. For this
reason, special tools were designed to allow them to collect
rocks and soil for return to Earth. The design of these
tools changed somewhat from mission to mission as experience
was gained about what worked best. Look at how the Apollo
astronauts collected their lunar samples by visiting the
Moon Rocks page. Discover the types of tools
used to collect the Moon rocks and samples. Have students
answer questions such as:
Make a list of the tools the astronauts
used. How do these compare to the tools used to collect
rocks on Earth?
Briefly summarize the steps
the astronauts used as they collected their samples.
How were the rocks transported back to Earth? Where were
they placed during the return trip?
2. Collect Samples
Examine rocks and soil samples that students collect
from around the school or their homes. Have students display
their samples on a tray or in an egg carton.
Direct students to collect soil samples
from different areas around their school or community. Compare
what you find in each sample. Label each sample as to where
it was collected and the type of area. Note the differences
in color, items in the sample (such as small stones or plant
pieces, moisture, texture or feel, etc.)
The Moon is made of rocks and the
lunar surface is covered with dust or a layer of fine broken-up
powder about 1 to 20 meters deep. This is called the lunar
soil. It appears to contain no water or plant life. How
does this differ from the samples which students collected?
3. Label Samples
Research the basic types of Earth rocks and how they are
formed. Compare the basic types of rocks found on Earth
to ones students collected and identify them. Introduce
students to the terms igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic
and help them find out how each of these types were formed.
See if they can use books to label their rock samples and
identify them as one of these 3 types. You can help students
find out about these types by visiting How
Rock Were Formed at the Rock Hound site.
4. Now the Questions
Now tell them they will be trying to answer the following
question: Which of these types that you found are similar
to those which might be found on the Moon?
(All Moon rocks originated through high-temperature processes
with little or no involvement with water. They are roughly
divisible into three types: basalts, anorthosites,
and breccias. Basalts are dark lava rocks that fill
mare basins; they generally resemble, but are much older
than, lavas that comprise the oceanic crust of Earth. Anorthosites
are light rocks that form the ancient highlands; they generally
resemble, but are much older than, the most ancient rocks
on Earth. Breccias are composite rocks formed from all other
rock types through crushing, mixing, and sintering during
meteorite impacts. The Moon has no sandstones, shales, or
limestones which are dependent on the water-borne processes
Find out where the Moon rock
and soil samples are today. The Moon
Rock link will help you discover more about these samples.
Visit the The Lunar
Sample Laboratory Facility at Johnson Space Center
Geologic samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo lunar
surface exploration missions (1969-1972), along with associated
data records, are physically protected, environmentally
preserved, and scientifically processed in a special building
dedicated for that purpose at the Johnson Space Center in
Let students take a virtual Tour of the Lunar
Sample Laboratory Facility
Using an image map of facility the lab this site allows
students to jump to an area of interest or go on a linear
tour starting with the Change Room which explains how visitors
would dress to actually visit.
Apollo missions brought back
many samples of soil from 6 different Moon areas. Find out
more about the types of samples, especially the "orange
soil" from Apollo 17.
What have the Moon rocks helped
us to discover or learn? Detailed information from the Moon
rocks has helped scientists look at new ways to explain
the formation of the Moon and led to the impact theory.
This theory states that the Earth collided with a very large
object (as big as Mars or even larger) and that the Moon
formed from the ejected material. The impact theory is now
widely accepted. See NASA's Top
10 Scientific Discoveries page for more.
real Lunar Rocks.
NASA will loan Moon rock sample discs to educators who have
completed training to help them correctly use and protect
these valuable resources. Find out how you can qualify.
(This is a PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader to open
it.) More information can be found by contacting the NASA
Educator Resource Center Network for your region.