The amount of lunar dirt in this vial is tiny. But its scientific value is immense.
The amount of lunar soil in this vial is tiny. But its scientific value is immense.

For a very long time MOONROCKS FOR SALE, that soil rested undisturbed on the moon. Exposed only to the immense radiation of space. When Burgess peers at the specimen with an electron microscope so powerful it can see down to the scale of atoms, she’s looking for evidence of how exposure to that radiation change the soil color. This sounds like small-bore science. But it’s in service of a grand, even beautiful, idea.

Burgess is working to make moon rocks a reference guide to the greater cosmos. She’s investigating how much of the soil’s color comes from its composition (what it’s made out of) and how much comes from space weathering. She says figuring that out will help identify the composition of objects — like asteroids — spotted by telescopes.MOONROCKS FOR SALE

In this way, the lunar samples are a link between us and the heavens, helping us see deeper into them and understand what we find. For planetary scientists, research on lunar samples is invaluable. Unlike Earth, the moon hasn’t changed much since it formed. That makes it a time capsule, a Book of Genesis for the geologically inclined.MOONROCKS FOR SALE

In other words: Moon rocks rock.

Scientists are still studying the lunar samples from the Apollo moon landings. But there is now renewe interest in sending humans back to the moon for more.

President Trump wants them to get there by 2024. (We’ll see about that.) And planetary scientists are salivating over the chance to study rocks from the lunar south pole and the side of the moon that never faces Earth. Whether a lunar return is worth the cost, at this point in time, is debatable. But the planetary scientists I spoke with all said, at least, that it would lead to important scientific gains.MOONROCKS FOR SALE

That’s because the moon rocks we have tell an incredible story about our place in the universe. The more we can collect, the more we’ll learn.

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