Three billion years ago, a rock formed on the moon. On Thursday, four ounces of it went on display at Science Museum Oklahoma.
The triangular chip of mare basalts material, encased in a pyramid of clear acrylic resin, is on loan from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Museum President Don Otto said.
"All lunar material is always on loan from the Johnson Space Center," Otto said.
The only lunar material ever given away by NASA consisted of very small chips of moon rock given to astronauts on the 40th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing, he said.
The unveiling of the moon rock was part of a news conference to announce a gift by Chesapeake Energy Corp. of about 20 original paintings by Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer created as illustrations for his children's book "One Giant Leap," focusing on the first moon landing mission.
Those artworks, along with D-Day-themed illustrations by Oklahoma artist Christopher Nick, who has worked with Wimmer, will be featured in a new gallery titled "Soldiers & Astronauts."
Wimmer said he first tried creating illustrations in black and white, since that's the way most people saw the moon landing in grainy video on old televisions. But that did not relay the kind of monumental feel he wanted to impart.
"I really wanted to make this the kind of heroic event it was," he said. So he went with full-color paintings.
However, he also wanted to incorporate as much technology in the artwork as possible. So he first drew the paintings in monochromatic blue using a computer, then printed those out and painted in oil on top of them.
Most art Wimmer creates depicts historical or heroic people. When he travels around the country talking to children about what made those people special, he explains that it all boils down to the choices they made in their lives.
"This could be you," he tells them. "You have to be careful with the kinds of choices you make."
Teresa Rose, spokeswoman for Chesapeake, said the company donated the artwork to encourage children to become scientists and engineers of the future. "Our entire industry is very dependent on the success of science museums in helping our children enjoy science," she said.
Otto said the museum has not had a moon rock for two years. The rock unveiled Thursday was part of 170 pounds of lunar material collected by Commander David Scott and lunar module pilot James Irwin during three days they spent on the moon almost 40 years ago.
The astronauts were the first to explore using a lunar rover, meaning they could gather materials from a much larger area of the moon's surface. On the same mission, the astronauts retrieved what has been called the "Genesis Rock," at 4.4 billion years old it's the oldest rock yet found. "This particular specimen we have here is young," Otto said of the rock on loan. "It's only 3.3 billion years old."