Rock Chalk, Moon Rock.
Nearly 3,000 visitors came to the University of Kansas School of Engineering for the opportunity to touch a rock from the moon.
In mid-April, a traveling NASA exhibit, Driven to Explore, set up shop outside Eaton Hall to educate the public about space exploration missions. The centerpiece of the mobile multimedia experience was a moon rock brought back to Earth by KU electrical engineering alumnus and astronaut Ron Evans. The moon rock is one of only seven in the world the public can touch and feel.
Hundreds of school children from throughout the region lined up outside the large blue tent for their chance to touch the polished black rock. Adults drove to campus during their lunch hour and after work for their turn to touch a geologic sample that once resided a quarter of a million miles away. As visitors snaked through the exhibit they snapped pictures of themselves, family and friends touching the rock. They also left with fun mementos that boosted the allure of space exploration and the necessary technology. After touching the rock, guests lined up to get a souvenir picture that superimposed their face in a space suit in front of one of several famous images from throughout the universe.
Three NASA staff members with ties to Kansas were on hand to answer questions about the space agency’s next moon mission: Constellation. Lucie Johannes, Dave Kovel and Randy Gordon were kept busy throughout the two-day visit greeting visitors and explaining innovative features of the Constellation mission.
The exhibit’s stop in Lawrence was hosted by the KU School of Engineering, which provided the venue and helped publicize the event. Part of the appeal was knowing this particular moon rock’s history. The 3-billion year-old rock was brought to Earth on the Apollo 17 moon mission in 1972. Capt. Ron Evans, a 1956 KU graduate, served as command module pilot on that mission, the nation’s last manned mission to the moon.