Hundreds of children at several Yorkshire primary schools had a once in a lifetime opportunity to hold a piece of the Moon as celebrations continue for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.
Bradford Grammar School (BGS) was selected to host the coveted Moon rocks for a week, which were hewn during the original landings on the Moon in the late 1960s and early 70s.
As well as being shown to students, parents and staff at BGS, Julien King, BGS physics and astrology teacher, took the rocks on tour to several primary schools so even more children would have the opportunity to see a piece of history for themselves. The samples included a 1.2 billion-year-old piece of Mars rock and a 4.3 billion-year-old nickel meteorite.
Mr King said: “We were extremely fortunate to secure the loan of samples of rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo missions.
“As well as commemorating the first humans to stand on another astronomical body, the rock samples were of tremendous scientific importance, helping astronomers to understand the long-standing mystery of how the Moon and the Earth formed. It’s fantastic that our staff, parents and pupils had the chance to hold these rocks and also that so many more school children in Yorkshire saw them.”
The visit was part of the Lunar Rocks and Meteorites Loan Scheme, which is run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the only authorised source to loan lunar samples to educational and scientific organisations in the UK. It has lent the NASA Moon rock discs and meteorites to thousands of schools, museums and outreach organisers.
STFC’s executive chairman, Professor Mark Thomson, said scientists could tell a great deal about the planets, from which they originated, but that there was still much to learn. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this unique opportunity to young people. It’s not often they will be able to see close-up, and actually touch, such important fragments of science history.
“Samples like these are vital in teaching us more about our solar system, allowing us to confront theory with fact. We hope the experience will encourage students to take up a career in science.”
The rocks were taken to Baildon Church of England School, Eldwick Primary School, Menston Primary School and Tranmere Park Primary, in Guiseley.
Rachel Sharp, Headteacher of Eldwick Primary School, said: “It was fantastic to witness the children having a once in a life time experience. They thoroughly enjoyed holding such priceless astronomical treasures which has inspired their curiosity and learning.”
Dr Simon Hinchliffe, Headmaster at BGS, added: “We’re so privileged and delighted to have had these iconic rocks in school, especially in this celebratory year of the Moon landing. The children have loved hearing all about the Moon mission and seeing first hand a piece of history. It will be something for them to tell their children one day.”
The lunar samples were collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s during some of NASA’s first manned space missions to the Moon. During the missions, a staggering 382kg of material was brought back to Earth – mostly for use by scientists – and small quantities were used to develop educational packs.