Indiana students get chance to touch moon rock

Ball State University

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — They didn’t mock the rock.

But school kids seemed more attracted to the pouches of space food than to the 4-billion-year-old moon rock at NASA’s “Driven to Explore” exhibit at Ball State University on Friday.

Laura Niles, a NASA science writer, offered an explanation: “We eat every day. Rocks are rocks. It’s still a rock. It doesn’t grow hair.”

The exhibit displayed clear pouches containing dehydrated broccoli and cheese, creamed spinach, teriyaki vegetables, spaghetti and meat sauce and mashed potatoes that looked like Rice Krispies Treats, all food eaten aboard the International Space Station.

“It doesn’t look like food,” Sadie Grandstaff, a student at Wes-Del Elementary School, told The Star Press. “It looks like mysterious shapes. The carrots felt like pudding.”

“Is it good?” one student asked NASA spokeswoman Victoria Ugalde. “Do they warm it up.” She answered “yes” to both questions.

“They take the water out of the food,” said Sanika Javeri, an elementary student at Burris Laboratory School. “Water would make it heavier,” added another student, Hannah Smith.

The students got to handle the food pouches, labeled in Russian, including one containing a tortilla. Astronauts don’t take bread into space because “the crumbs would fly everywhere,” Ugalde said.

International Space Station astronauts must learn to speak Russian.

A Soyuz space capsule took the first crew to the International Space Station in November 2000, according to NASA. Since then, at least one Soyuz has always been at the station, generally to serve as a lifeboat should the crew have to return to Earth unexpectedly. After the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the Soyuz became the sole means of transportation for crew members going to or returning from the orbiting laboratory.

The lunar rock brought its own reaction.

“It’s weird you can touch a moon rock,” said elementary school student Lillian Gropp. “It’s like a regular rock but it’s a moon rock. It feels smooth. If they didn’t polish it, it would cut you. There are only eight in the world that can be touched.”

The black rock was about half the size of a Bic lighter.

“Not everybody in the world can touch a moon rock,” Burris student Fridarose Hamad said. “We are so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Logan Sitgreaves liked wearing the Apollo era space helmet. “You hear noises in it,” he said. “I can’t describe it.”

Students also tried on space gloves, which they were asked to use to try to pick up coins and a paper clip from a table.

Students learned that space station astronauts sleep in what looks like a cocoon.

Sleeping in space is the best sleep you will ever get, astronauts say, according to Niles. “You don’t get any pressure on your joints,” she said. “What astronauts miss the most is sleeping in space.”

The visitors could also step into a space suit and have their picture taken.

The exhibit moves to White River State Park in Indianapolis on Saturday, to the state fairgrounds on Sunday, to Purdue University on April 30 and to the Indiana State Museum on May 2.

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