Vinegar and baking soda activities abound, but making fizzy Moon rocks has some fun tie-ins to a study of the real Moon rocks brought back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts. This project had some surprise discussions!
With the upcoming Artemis Missions, helping our children learn about the Moon and the past missions, gives our children a jump on their background knowledge. This program is going to be at least four to five years and could lead to even more exploration. In other words, our kids will hear about a lot of Moon exploration in their lifetime.
We went back to the Moon missions of the 1960s and early 1970s. NASA has some wonderful photos. The NASA photo gallery is linked at the bottom of this post.
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While we talk about the phases of the Moon and lunar eclipses, I never covered the Apollo missions in much depth, or the scientific information retrieved from studying the soil and dust samples and moon rocks brought back to Earth over 70 years ago.
We will incorporate this information into our fizzing moon rocks activity.
NASA’s Curation program is responsible for maintaining the moon rocks, dust, and soil retrieved during the Apollo missions.
In this photo, astronaut, Charles Duke, is collecting rock samples on the Moon on February 23, 1972. You can see the collection bag in his right hand. (Ask your child, what do you think would happen if he let go of the bag?)
Ask your child to list some of the features of the big rock in the photo? What do they see?
As they make their fizzy Moon rocks, can they recreate some of the features in the Moon rocks in these photos? How about when they are dropping vinegar on their moon rocks?
What Tools Were Used to Collect Moon Rocks?
Below is a photo from the Apollo 14 mission, (Crew: Alan B. Shepherd, Jr. Edgar D. Mitchell, and Stuart A. Roosa.) You can see the hammer used to collect samples, along with the collection bag, sitting on top of the big rock.
More Details About Moon Rocks
“A closeup view or “mug shot” of Apollo 16 lunar sample no. 68815, a dislodged fragment from a parent boulder roughly four feet high and five feet long.” Source: NASA Image Gallery
Per the NASA Image Gallery this is “A close-up view of Apollo 17 lunar sample number 72415,0 which was brought back from the Taurus-Littrow landing site by the Apollo 17 crewmen. This sample is a brecciated dunite clast weighing a little over 32 grams (about 1.14 ounces)”
Did you catch that? The rock in the photo above weighs 1.14 ounces! After researching brecciated dunite clast. This is an excellent sources of information about the geology of the samples taken from the Moon.
According to Washington University in St. Louis, “Only four minerals – plagioclase feldspar, pyroxene, olivine, and ilmenite – account for 98-99% of the crystalline material of the lunar crust. (Material at the lunar surface contains a high proportion of non-crystalline material, but most of this material is glass that formed from melting of rocks containing the four major minerals.) The remaining 1-2% is largely potassium feldspar, oxide minerals such as chromite, pleonaste, and rutile, calcium phosphates, zircon, troilite, and iron-nickel metal.”
What Samples Made it Back to Earth?
According to the Curator division of NASA, 842 pounds of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand, and dust were brought back to Earth from the Moon. These were collected by astronauts on six different Apollo Mission
Today the samples are still being studied. The Curator’s office does loan samples out to researches who apply to the load program.
Making Fizzy Moon Rocks
Now that we have a little background on actual Moon samples that have been retrieved during the Apollo Missions, let’s make some fizzy Moon rocks and see if we can recreate some of the features of actual Moon rocks!
Making Fizzy Moon Rocks
- 1 large box Baking soda You will need 3 to 4 smaller boxes or one of the larger boxes
- 1 large Bottle of white vinegar You don't want to run out right in the middle of the big fizz!
- Different colors of acrylic paintt
- 4 to 6 small bowls
- 8 to 10 ounces of Water
- 3-4 spoons for stirring
- paper towel
- Pipette, turkey baster, medicine dropper We used spoons.
- Pour about 1/2 cup of water into a bowl
- Add a few "globs" of acrylic paint to color the water. I much prefer acryclic paint over food coloring; the paint does not stain like food coloring
- Stir the paint in. Add more paint, if you'd like.
- Sprinkle glitter into the paint and water mixture.
- Pour some baking soda into a bowl, then add the colored water. Start off with a small amount of baking soda, then you can always add more.
- Add some extra glitter 😉
- When the mixture is a consistency where it doesn't stick too much to your hand, roll into balls and place on a flat baking sheet. We used reusable foil sheet pans.
- Place in the freezer for six hour.
- Remove and ready the white vinegar. Use a pipette, dropper, or spoon to drop vinegar onto the moon rocks.
Observation Questions and Ideas
As we were making our fizzy moon rocks fizz, we started exploring some ideas and talking about the way the real moon rocks looked. Here are some ways to add discussion to this activity and get your children thinking critically about what they are learning.
Here are some questions:
- Look at the pictures of the real Moon rocks, do you see any similar marks on your fizzy Moon rocks?
- What happens if you drop vinegar from a higher height? A lower height? What do you notice about the marks the vinegar leaves on your Moon rocks?
- Can you make bubble marks like the ones below on the blue rock?
- What do you think made some of the marks on the Moon rocks?
- What if we dropped something heavy on the fizzy Moon rocks? (Like a penny or very small pebble?)
- You might want to freeze some of the Moon rocks for 2 to 3 days and see if it takes more vinegar to make them fully fizz?
- What happens when you try to recylce some of the used vinegar? Does it still fizz when it mixes with the baking soda?
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I hold a master’s degree in child development and early education and am working on a post-baccalaureate in biology. I spent 15 years working for a biotechnology company developing IT systems in DNA testing laboratories across the US. I taught K4 in a private school, homeschooled my children, and have taught on the mission field in southern Asia. For 4 years, I served on our state’s FIRST Lego League tournament Board and served as the Judging Director. I own thehomeschoolscientist and also write a regular science column for Homeschooling Today Magazine. You’ll also find my writings on the CTCMath blog. Through this site, I have authored over 50 math and science resources.