Planetary Science Research Discoveries

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Celebrated Moon Rocks

Excerpt from Taylor, G. Jeffrey (1985) Earth's Moon: Doorway to the Solar System in The Planets, Byron Preiss editor, Bantam Books, New York, 336 p.

"The Curatorial Lab is the cleanest place I have ever been. The air is filtered to remove Earthly dust, which might contaminate the lunar samples. The samples are stored in cabinets made of stainless steel and glass, with black rubber gloves protruding like arms beckoning you to reach in and touch a piece of the heavens. Dry nitrogen gas flows through the cabinets, protecting the samples from Earth's oxygen-rich and wet atmosphere. Workers in the lab wear nylon suits, hats, boots, and gloves, affectionately known as 'bunny suits.'"

"Except for being as clean as the lunar surface is dusty, the Curatorial Lab has much in common with the Moon. Shades of gray abound: stainless steel, black gloves, speckled gray linoleum tiles on the floor, gray walls, and off-white ceilings. The bunny suits provide splotches of white and serve as our space suits. Perhaps it sounds like a drab, dull, and sterile place, but it isn't at all. It is the ideal showcase for Moon rocks. Lunar samples, like the surface they were collected on, are shades of gray to black, livened with white. The neutral colors let the laboratory stand aside so all your attention is focused on the main attractions."

"Working in the Curatorial Lab is always exciting. Not only do you get to see pieces of another world, but you get to heft them. Turn them over. I am still amazed that we actually built spaceships that traveled all the way to the Moon and returned with boxes of rock. That alone is exciting, but I am also filled with a sense of adventure. The spirit of exploration. I look down at a rock, see gray, black, and white areas intermingled in baffling ways. Even after looking at numerous rocks in the lab I am as thrilled as when I saw the Mona Lisa for the first (and only) time. Like her subtle smile, the rocks hide secrets."
Return to the December 21, 2009 PSRD article Celebrated Moon Rocks.