Today, I journeyed to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park to touch the moon. NASA had brought into the Academy grounds an exhibit trailer, complete with videos, a space suit and gloves, and an actual rock, brought back aboard the Apollo 17 in 1972, from the moon. In the line in front of me were what seemed like every elementary school student in San Francisco, running around, tussling, hooting, until their teachers shepherded them back into line for the moon rock experience.
Finally, after about an hour, it was my turn. I was disappointed that I could not hold the rock. Visitors put their fingers into a plastic enclosure and touch the top surface of the stone, which was fastened to a plastic base. I can’t blame NASA for their caution: what are the odds that at least one kid would do something with or to that stone?
The moon rock was as smooth as glass, perhaps as a result of being stroked by thousands of fingers over time:
One time many years ago, I harbored another hope of touching the moon. I had achieved an “Extra” ham radio license, and looked for someone who had the equipment to allow me to bounce an EME (earth-moon-earth) signal off the moon. But I never located anyone who had access to the elaborate equipment necessary for the experiment:
Some day, when we resume our exploration of space, I hope that moon rocks become commonplace, and it will take a chunk of Charon (or beyond) to excite the wonder of kids. In the meantime, I’m happy to have run my finger over a surface untouchable by the human race since its beginning.