Montana's moon rocks are really close to the real thing.

There's been a new wave of interest in returning to the moon, with several nations hoping to put humans back on its surface for the first time in 50 years. A private US firm landed a rover on the moon last week, the first commercial enterprise to do so. Sadly, the poor little bugger (nicknamed Odie) broke one of his legs on impact, skewing its solar panels. The rover sent a few final images before its battery died.

Credit NASA
Credit NASA

Samples of the moon's surface are relatively rare.

According to NASA, US astronauts brought back 842 pounds of rocks, sand, dust, and other materials from their missions to the moon. Most of it is stored at the Johnson Space Center. The Russians brought a few small sacks of moon dirt back too. NASA sends out hundreds of moon samples annually to researchers. I would guess the samples are quite small.

Credit Jaci Bjorne, TSM
Are these moon rocks? Credit Jaci Bjorne, TSM

Here's where moon rocks from Montana help.

The Beartooth Mountain Range in southcentral Montana is loaded with high-quality "moon rocks." These rocks aren't from the moon, nor are they rare. The rocks are called anorthosite and it's commonly found around the world. Canada is practically covered with it.

However, scientists say the nearly pure anorthosite found around the Stillwater complex closely matches samples taken from the moon. We got the good stuff. 

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Montana rocks. Credit Jaci Bjorne, TSM
Montana rocks. Credit Jaci Bjorne, TSM

Montana rocks are part of the new race to the moon.

Montana's moon rocks are valuable for researchers studying the lunar crust. Many samples collected from the area are ground into dust for various purposes, like testing space suits (or literally anything) that might come in contact with moon dust. Think of all the people designing solar panels, robotics, mechanics, propulsion systems, etc., who are probably using Montana moon dust to test their designs.

Montana Talks host Aaron Flint caught up with Sarah Deitrick of NASA’s Johnson Space Center recently and talked about how important the Stillwater Complex in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana is to NASA. Story and interview below.

Read More: Montana Research Critical to Next Moon Mission [AUDIO]

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