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Houston, I Don't Think We Have A Problem

Larry Malone, Co-Director of FOSS, Lawrence Hall of Science
September 10, 2002 | Professional Development

Top image: Planetary Science Institute participants toured the reclining Saturn V rocket.

Last summer the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston hosted a weeklong workshop on the FOSS Middle School Planetary Science Course. Can you imagine a better place to have this workshop?! We had the opportunity to work with the FOSS Planetary Science Course under the same roof with some of the world's leading planetary scientists. At key junctures during the course, LPI researchers gave presentations on subjects that extended beautifully from activities in the curriculum.

The field trips were great. Two things stand out as lifetime experiences. First, we visited the Moon rock vaults. These few hundred kilograms of rocky matter are some of the world's most valuable scientific artifacts, and they are housed accordingly. We were able to view a number of samples up close but through several inches of security glass. The rocks are actually kept in vaults, protecting them against mischief, certainly, but, equally important, also isolating them from Earth's oxidizing atmosphere that could alter the chemical composition of the rocks in unacceptable ways.

Group looking at moon rocks

The group visits the Moon rock vaults at NASA.

Our second lifetime experience was standing in the shadow of the Saturn V rocket, the magnificent machine that the Apollo astronauts rode to the Moon. It is a monumental piece of engineering. To walk its length and study the complex plumbing on the monstrous engines is awesome. Believe me, it's bigger than it looks in all the pictures you've seen.

Thank you LPI researchers and education staff for the terrific solar system experience. Special thanks to Kathleen Johnson and Pam Thompson, who coordinated the facilities, interactions with LPI researchers, field trips to NASA and the Johnson Space Center, and the social events. Everything was out of this world!