Miss the big blast-off on June 2nd, or want to know more about what you saw? This is the place for resources from NASA and book recomendations! 


Lunar Disk

The Lunar Disk that NASA lent the FFL included 3 soil samples and 3 rocks from the moon. See a close-up of each of these by clicking on the links below. 


A basalt forms when the lava that flows onto the surface of the Moon cools and crystallizes. The individual mineral grains are large enough to be seen under a microscope and consist mainly of pyroxene and feldspar, and lesser amounts of olivine and ilmenite (iron titanium oxide). (Examples are marked on the photograph of the chips.) The individual crystals grew in the molten lava just like ice crystals grow as water freezes. Where gas pushed the still liquid part of the lava away to form cavities, the crystals could form their own distinctive shapes, as do snowflakes that grow in air.

Basalt flows are the dark materials that have filled the lowlands on the Moon’s surface. These areas cover about half of the Moon’s face. Because they are smooth and have flooded the lowlands, each of these areas is called a mare or sea. They are surrounded by the lighter colored, hilly and mountainous highlands. The dark areas that are circular are basins, produced by large meteorites. These basins have been filled by many basalt lava flows, from one of which the basalt in this disk came.

The chip in this disk weighs about 1/2 gram, was removed from a large rock, which is numbered 15555 and weighed 9614 grams (21.3 lbs.). In August 1971, the rock was collected by the Apollo 15 astronauts at the east edge of Mare Imbrium, the large circular area on the upper part of the Moon, just left of center. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See the rock it came from under a microscope!

Breccia (Breck'sha)

This rock is made of fragments of other rocks that were broken by collisions of meteorites with the Moon. The fragments were heated by the collisions that broke them apart, so that sharp edges melted and stuck to other grains to form a new rock, composed entirely of broken rocks and smaller mineral grains, called a breccia (breck’sha).

Breccias like this one were produced when the original crust of the Moon was completely broken up by meteorite impacts. Pieces of this crust now exist as rock fragments in these breccias, and for this reason many of the larger fragments (about 1 cm or 0.4 inches across) are subjects of intense study by several of the 100 scientific laboratories throughout the world working with lunar samples.

The chip in this disk weighs about 1 gram and was removed from rock number 15059, which weighed 1149 grams (2.5 lbs.). The Apollo 15 astronauts collected this rock, which was lying loose on the surface, near the canyon, Hadley Rille. The rock was part of a layer of breccia and evidently was cast out of the crater when it was formed by a meteorite. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See a sample of Breccia from this Apollo mission under a telescope!


This white rock is composed almost entirely of crystals of one mineral, feldspar. Rocks like this make up much of the Highlands of the Moon, where feldspar produces the light color. Shortly after material gathered together to form the Moon, the outer Moon melted. As the melt cooled, feldspar crystals formed and floated (like ice cubes in water) upward to form the Moon’s crust. At first the feldspar crystals were pale gray or colorless. Then meteorites collided with the Moon and broke up its crust into fragments, and shocked and shattered the feldspar crystals so they are now white. The yellow crystals and grains on the chip are olivine.

The chip in this disk weighs about 1/2 gram was removed from a 1832 gram (4 lb.) rock, number 60025. The Apollo 16 astronauts found the rock loose on the surface where they landed in the Descartes region of the light colored highlands near the center of the Moon. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See the rock it came from under a microscope!

Orange Soil

A mixture of reddish balls and black balls, and fragments from them, produced the orange color described by the Apollo 17 astronauts when they shoveled this unusual soil into a sample bag. This soil originated 3.5 billion years ago from sprays of lava expelled by escaping gas from a volcano to form liquid droplets. While in flight the droplets cooled to the glass balls or spheres that make up the sample, which should really be called volcanic ash rather than a soil. If the lava had contained less gas, it would have flowed gently out of the volcano instead of being sprayed out. Then it would have cooled and crystallized slowly to produce another mare basalt like the one in this disk.

Since the Moon’s gravity is too weak to retain an atmosphere of the gases released on its surface, the nature of the gas that sprayed lavas into space is one of many questions still unanswered about this planet. The gas could not have been like our atmosphere, since oxygen and water vapor would have rusted the bright iron metal present in lunar soils.

The Apollo 17 astronauts discovered this sample, which is numbered 74220, in December 1972 at the southeast side of the dark, circular Mare Serenitatis. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See this sample under a microscope!

Highland Soil

The fragments composing this soil are from the break up of highlands rocks by meteorites. The fragments are particles of rocks, of broken mineral grains, and of glasses melted from rocks and minerals by the impacts of meteorites on the Moon’s surface.

The most abundant grains are feldspar because it is the most abundant mineral in highlands rocks. The transparent, colorless grains were broken from rocks without being shocked (crushed internally). The white grains are feldspars that have been shocked as well as being broken from rocks by meteorite impacts. The glasses are chilled droplets of melted rock and minerals; they are the products of the most severe effects of meteorite impacts. The glasses are present in several forms and colors: pale green spheres; dark gray and black spheres with rough exteriors; dark brown and black glass splashes on other grains.

This soil was collected by the Apollo 16 astronauts, who landed near the center of the Moon on the light colored highlands between the dark mare areas. This sample consists of coarser grains from the 825 gram soil sample number 6850l. The finer grains and dust, produced in great abundance by meteorite collision with the Moon, have been separated from the sample with a sieve. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See this sample under a microscope!

Mare Soil

The fragments composing this soil were produced by meteorites hitting basalts like the one in this disk. The most abundant mineral grains are feldspars and pyroxenes, just as they are in basalts.

The impacting meteorites not only break the basalt into pieces, but also shock (internally crush) some of the minerals, and melt others to produce glass.

Feldspar, which is light gray and clear in basalts, turns white when it is shocked. Liquids from impact melting are thrown into space (there is no air on the Moon) and quench to glass spheres, or splash onto rocks or grains in soil.

This sample consists of the coarser fragments obtained by sieving a portion of sample number 75081, which weighed 1457 grams (3.2 lbs.). The sample was collected in 1972 on the Apollo 17 mission, the last visit by humans to the Moon. (From ares.jsc.nasa.gov)

See a sample of Mare Soil from Apollo 17 under a microscope!


Meteorite Disk

The Meteorite disk includes small pieces of meteorites found all around the globe. These pieces of meteorites represent different material of basic planetary processes: accretion, differentiation, volcanism and impacts. Click on the Meteorite Name for more information

ALH90411 (Chondrite L3): Found in Allan Hills, Antarctica in 1990. Weighs 5.8 Kg. 

LEW87030 (Chondrite L3): Found in Lewis Cliff, Antarctica in 1987. Weighs 8 Kg.

Allende (Carbonaceous Chondrite): Found in Allende Mexico in 1969. Weighs 1,000 Kg. View the Allende meteorite under a microscope

EET83227 (Basaltic Achondrite): Found in Elephant Moraine, Antarctica in 1983. Weighs 2 Kg.

Gibeon (Iron): Found in Namibia, Africa in 1836. Weighs 21,000 Kg.

Brenham (Stony-Iron): Found in Kansas, USA in 1882. Weighs 4,400 Kg.



Other resources

See Apollo samples under a microscope at virtualmicroscope.org.