7 Things You Didn't Know About Moon Rocks

Cockroaches ate the rocks, proving their safety.

By Boonsri Dickinson|Monday, November 12, 2007

space issue coverThis article is a small sample from DISCOVER's special issue, The History of Space Travel. The issue will be on sale through the end of the year, only at newsstands.

1  Apollo 11 astronauts used an aseptic sampler to avoid contaminating the rocks and dirt collected from the moon. The astronauts used an extension handle to hold a sterile plastic bag for the samples.

3  In total, Apollo astronauts collected 840 pounds of lunar material.

4  The moon samples are stored at the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in nitrogen-filled steel cabinets. Researchers must wear three layers of gloves to protect the samples. Inside the cabinets, sealed Teflon bags, plastic vials, and stainless steel or aluminum containers hold the samples.

In October 2000, FBI agents arrested a man in Arizona who claimed to be selling moon rocks over the Internet. Richard Keith Mountain pled guilty and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, three years’ probation, and 300 hours of community service

7  Initially, the moon rocks were quarantined with about a dozen species of animals to make sure they did not harbor toxic or poisonous materials. Cockroaches were fed and inoculated with lunar rocks for up to 28 days, which did them no harm. Paramecia, planarians, shrimps, oysters, and houseflies also served as guinea pigs.

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