Never mind the Obamas: Across the Island, children's librarians are excited about the first-ever Vineyard visit of real rocks, courtesy of NASA, from the moon.
It was more than a year ago that the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners decided to make "Starship Adventure" the theme of this summer's statewide reading program for young people. But for Deborah MacInnis, children's librarian at the Edgartown Public Library, the booster rockets didn't kick in until this spring, when she launched her campaign to bring genuine moon rocks from NASA to the libraries of the Vineyard this summer.
Ms. MacInnis, an enthusiastic astronomy buff, can talk for hours about stellar subjects from the origins of the Aurora Borealis to the fine points of solar eclipses and the difference between asterisms and constellations.
When she learned it might be possible to bring moon rocks to the Vineyard from NASA, she went to work - taking a pair of classes offered first by the state library commission and then by an educator from the Goddard Space Center in Maryland. Certification in hand, she went through the arduous application process and learned in June that the Island would be scheduled for a week-long visit by the moon rocks at the end of July.
"We really lucked out," Ms. MacInnis said this week. "I wanted the samples here for the full moon, and we got them."
The touring moon rocks are the real deal, but if you're expecting the sort of stone you could stub your toe on, you might be disappointed. In all its missions to the moon, NASA brought back only about 900 pounds of samples, and gram for gram, they're immensely more valuable than diamonds or gold. The materials visiting the Vineyard are part of what NASA calls its Lunar Sample Disk kit - one of the agency's less-fortunate acronyms - a platter of acrylic embedded with three samples of soil and three of rock. (The soils include what scientists call highland, mare and orange varieties; the rocks are anorthosite, basalt, and breccia.)
Understanding the peculiarities of lunar soils could be a life-saver if ever you visit there, Ms. MacInnis says: "The soil on the moon is regolith, and it's a big deal because it never gets rounded off. It's always sharp, which means that it can cut holes in spacesuits. Also, every time the sun shines on it, it gets electrically charged, and it clings to the spacesuits. It's really miserable stuff."