Around Osceola
Osceola News-Gazette

Follow Us On:

Lunar rock star at Dark Sky Festival, Moon rock sample will be on display at Harmony event, Feb. 28 and March 1

Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:22 am


By Peter Covino
A&E Editor
Elizabeth Taylor was famous for her affinity for diamonds, but the real celebrity of the stone world is coming to the Dark Sky event at Harmony.
The annual festival, now in its 18th year, will feature a lunar sample, more commonly called a “moon rock.” It will be on display for both days of the event, Feb. 28 and March 1.
According to Dark Sky Festival Director Bill Fife, the special guest at the festival was collected by astronaut Dave Scott, while he was on the moon as part of Apollo 15 in 1971.
While rocks were collected during all six Apollo lunar surface excursions (about 842 pounds were collected total and 2,415 samples), by rock standards, they are still quite rare and considered priceless.
According to Wikipedia, three small fragments from the Soviet explorer Luna 16, weighing 0.2 grams, sold for $442,500 back in 1993.
The lunar sample on display at the Dark Sky Festival, while still a fragment from a larger piece of rock, weighs about 93.1 grams. It originally came from a piece of rock that weighed 4,770 grams (about 10.5 pounds).
It will, of course, be guarded the entire time it is on display, and kept in a safe after hours.
According to information supplied by Fife, the lunar sample is breccia (rock composed of broken fragments) and is estimated to be about 3.9 billion years old. That’s older than 99.99 percent of all Earth rocks.
Scientific research continues at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on the larger, remaining piece of rock. And similar studies continue at other research centers in the United States of the lunar samples collected during the Apollo program.
You can get an up close look at the lunar sample (it will be on a pedestal and roped off) from 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 1.
While the rock is the stellar attraction at this year’s Dark Sky event, there will be a lot of other things to do at the festival, which was created to promote dark sky awareness in Osceola County and beyond. Light pollution has become a major problem for stargazing, not only in urban areas, but throughout the United States.
The event features exhibits, stuff for kids to do as well as a large selection telescopes for sky viewing, set up by various area star-gazing groups.
The current lineup of speakers includes:
– Former NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave (Saturday Night).
– Katherine Nagy, head of Astronomy Education for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Friday Night).
– Derek Demeter, director of the Seminole State College Planetarium.
– Beverly Rother, representing Virgin Galactic space travel
Featured exhibitors include:
NASA, Earthrise Space, Orlando FamiLAB, Orlando Mini Makers Faire,  Hobbytown USA, Orlando Science Center and Tom’s Rocket Gear (Saturday Only).
Admission and parking to the Dark Sky Festival is free.
Space Center
At the nearby Kennedy Space Center, two Space Shuttle astronauts will be joining the prestigious list of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Space shuttle astronauts Shannon Lucid, the only American woman to serve aboard the Russian Space Station Mir, and Jerry Ross, the first human to complete seven space shuttle missions, have just been selected for induction into  the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Their selection as the 2014 inductees was announced this week at the new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex by Dan Brandenstein, chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and himself a four-time shuttle astronaut and Hall of Fame member.
Lucid and Ross will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at 3 p.m. May 3 during a ceremony at the Visitor Complex, joining the ranks of well-known space explorers such as Alan Shepard, John Glenn, John Young, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.
Lucid and Ross were selected by NASA to become astronauts within two years of each other; Lucid in 1978 and Ross in 1980. Now retired, both achieved honorable milestones throughout their careers with NASA. Lucid joined the first U.S. astronaut class to include women and held the record until 2007 for the most flight hours in orbit by a female astronaut (5,354 hours, or 223 days). Ross was the first to break the world record for being the first human launched into space seven times.
Past inductees were part of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs. Welcoming Lucid and Ross marks the thirteenth group of space shuttle astronauts named to the Astronaut Hall of Fame. The addition of these two accomplished astronauts brings the total number of members to 87. In 2013, space shuttle astronauts Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar were inducted.
Shannon Lucid, a Ph.D., is a veteran of five space flights. She boarded space shuttle Discovery on June 17, 1985, for her first mission, STS-51G. On this mission, the crew deployed and retrieved the Spartan satellite along with several other communication satellites.
On March 22, 1996, Lucid launched aboard STS-76 Atlantis toward the Russian Space Station Mir. She spent 188 days working as Board Engineer 2 on life and physical science experiments. Lucid is the only American woman to have served on the Mir. President Clinton presented Lucid with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in December 1996 for her mission to Mir, making her the first woman to receive this award. Lucid’s other missions include STS-34 Atlantis, STS-43 Atlantis and STS-58 Columbia.
After serving on Mir, Lucid became NASA’s Chief Scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. She then went on to serve as a CAPCOM in Mission Control, helping her fellow astronauts in space. Lucid retired from NASA in January 2012.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, near Titusville, is one of the most popular attractions in the country.  It brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering a full day of fun and educational activities, including the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the Angry Birds Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and many other interactive exhibits. The new $100 million home for Space Shuttle Atlantis opened last summer.
Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, which opens daily at noon and closing times vary by season. , Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season.  Admission is $50 plus tax for adults and $40 plus tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers annual passes starting at $75 plus tax for adults and $60 plus tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit