Future Moon: The Footsteps of Explorers
What's the Point?
The following materials are for one The Footsteps of Explorers activity set and will serve approximately 10 children working in teams of two to three.
- Optional: Butcher paper, newspapers, or disposable table cloths for the activity area
- Fist-sized rock or a (1–lb.) box of baking soda wrapped in aluminum foil
- 1 sheet of aluminum foil to cover the rock or baking soda box
- 1 large cardboard box (~2" per side) with high sides
- 10–15 graham crackers (enough to cover the bottom of the box with two layers)
- 1 local soil sample in a small, open container
- Optional: lunar soil simulant contained in a clear plastic container or sealable clear plastic bag
- Moon Map: Apollo Landing Sites
- Images of lunar dust, preferably printed in color
- The Footsteps of Explorers station sign
- The Footsteps of Explorers children's guide
- Art materials, such as colored pencils, crayons, and markers
- Crayons with the wrappers removed, for making rubbings
- Future Moon: The Footsteps of Explorers comic panel
- His/her Marvel Moon comic book and binder clip
- 1 pencil or pen
Facilitator's Note: Children may investigate lunar dust and the problems it poses for exploration in the Explore! To the Moon and Beyond! activity, The Scoop on Moon Dirt.
The children should identify the rock or baking soda box as an asteroid. Just as the graham crackers were crushed over time, the impacts over billions of years have ground the lunar rocks into a fine, brittle dust. Unlike on Earth, the Moon's surface is not broken down by water, wind, and other processes. The footprints of the Apollo astronauts remain preserved in the dust on the lunar surface.
A Little Background for the Facilitator
The Moon is covered with circular patches. Some of these are huge, covering more area than the state of Texas. Some are miniscule, smaller than the tip of a pin. All are caused by the innumerable meteoroids and comets bashing into the surface of the Moon over its 4.5-billion-year lifetime. The large ones you can see from your backyard were created when large meteoroids — asteroids — or comets impacted the Moon. Smaller ones were made by smaller meteoroids. Impactors come in all sizes, and they create circular depressions — craters — of all sizes. These impacts pulverized rocks on the lunar surface, reducing them to a dusty, rock material called regolith that covers the Moon's surface — in some cases deeper than 50 feet (15 meters).
The Moon has no atmosphere, so there is no wind, and there is no flowing water on the Moon to weather away the surface The Apollo astronauts explored six small areas on the Moon and left their footprints preserved in the dust.
Scientists at the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies are investigating the nature of lunar dust and its impact for human exploration of the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission is currently orbiting the Moon and mapping the presence of different elements and characterizing the regolith. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Experiment Explorer (LADEE) mission, scheduled to launch in 2011, will collect data about lunar dust while orbiting the Moon.