Pupils take rock-it to the Moon

Aston Academy pupils, from left, Lauren Jepson, aged 14, Mitch Morton and Gina McNeil, both aged 15, examines some meteorites.
Aston Academy pupils, from left, Lauren Jepson, aged 14, Mitch Morton and Gina McNeil, both aged 15, examines some meteorites.
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PUPILS at a South Yorkshire school enjoyed lessons that were simply out of this world – when they were given exclusive close encounters with moon rocks and meteorites.

Samples which went on show at Aston Academy, near Sheffield, are officially priceless as they are too valuable to be insured.

But science teacher Lee Nicholson said the rocks seen by the students, which were collected on the Apollo 15 mission, could have been worth as much as £2 million.

“One small two gram sample was sold some time ago and fetched $400,000,” he said. “Another woman was arrested after trying to sell another quantity of rock for $2 million. There are only 80 kilograms anywhere in the world and there won’t be any more arriving.”

Samples of rocks are loaned occasionally to schools by the Science and Technology Research Foundation for a week at a time, under conditions of great secrecy to prevent theft.

The school was also loaned equally precious meteorite samples – one of which was five billion years old, older than the Earth itself. Another was one of only a handful of meteorites which have been definitively identified as having come from Mars. Lee said a special lesson had been put together featuring the extra terrestrial materials.

“The students were either impressed or not bothered at all – you know what teenagers are like,” he said. “But it was certainly a rare honour for the school to have rocks that normally would only be seen in museums.”