Rare moon rocks on display locally

Monday, March 12, 2012
Visitors David Commuso (far left) and John Hedrick learn about the moon rocks from Kenneth Renshaw during a special display Tuesday at the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum and Study Center.

Fragments of rocks and soil samples taken from the moon by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts now are on display locally, thanks to the efforts of Kenneth Renshaw of Piggott.

Renshaw, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, received the moon rocks last week. The samples, which also include portions of meteorites taken from the moon's surface, are contained in thick protective glass. The glass is easy to see through, allowing easy viewing.

Renshaw received special training in 2010 to qualify for receiving the unique moon samples as part of a program designed for educators.

This collection of rocks, soil and meteorites collected by NASA astronauts during the Apollo missions to the moon were sent to Kenneth Renshaw for public display.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to have these samples here where we can display them to the public," Renshaw said. "Being able to see something up-close that came from a quarter of a million miles away is a rare treat."

Renshaw said the announcements surrounding the moon rock displays have generated great interest among area schools, libraries and organizations.

"There has been a lot of interest. In fact, every day (the moon rocks are here) except Saturdays and Sundays is filled up."

Students at Piggott Elementary were among the first to see the rarities on Monday. The visit created lots of interest, with the young students asking numerous questions about the moon and its structure. Renshaw provided answers, as well as a presentation on the moon and other heavenly bodies. The unique samples were on display Tuesday at the Karl and Matilda Pfeiffer Museum and Study Center in Piggott.

Renshaw also will be displaying the rarities during the Piggott Elementary School Health and Science Fair on Monday, March 12. The event is open to the public and will feature many educational displays on a wide range of topics.

When not on display, the two housings are kept in protective transport cases, which Renshaw has arranged to have stored at the Clay County Sheriff's Department.

Renshaw will have the moon rocks for a period of two weeks before they must be returned to NASA.

Astronomy has always fascinated Renshaw. This opportunity to share invaluable remnants from America's manned trips to the moon strike a special chord with Renshaw.

"I can remember those Apollo moon flights. I was 11 years old at the time. I kept up with all of them. It filled me with a sense of wonder that I still have today."

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