Facts about solar system's oldest rocks housed at Johnson Space Center

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

HOUSTON - Some of the most precious and oldest rocks in our solar system live inside a clean, secure lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

PHOTOS: Go inside NASA's space rock vault

They are treasures gathered from the ice of Antarctica.

The meteorites are from Mars, the Moon and asteroids.

KPRC2's Ryan Korsgard got a chance to enter the room and see the rocks first-hand. Here are some things he thinks you should know about them:

How old are the meteorites?

"The meteorites are all probably 4.4 billion years old or older. Almost everything in this lab is older than that,” said Apollo Sample Curator Ryan Ziegler.

How did scientists collect the meteorites?

Geologists said the meteorites can fall anywhere, but they are easiest to see and to collect from the ice of Antarctica.

How many meteorites have scientists collected and stored at the Johnson Space Center?

Ziegler said there are nearly 22,000 meteorites at JSC.

How do scientists figure out where the rocks came from?

"The way this is gonna work is that we're going to chip off a small piece of this. We're gonna send it to the Smithsonian Institution. They're going to do an initial classification and tell us the basic rock type we think it is," Ziegler said.

From there, scientists with a special interest will investigate more.

What is the biggest meteorite ever sent to the Johnson Space Center?

It is a very large rock! It weighs about 240 pounds. It is stored in a special case.

Where, beyond the Johnson Space Center, are the samples?

The curators have sent more than 19,000 meteorite samples to about 600 scientists throughout the world.

What can we learn from a meteorite?

"Once we start studying them, we'll be able to tell what region of the solar system it came from, almost certainly, and probably even what planetary body it came from. It just depends on how specific it is,” Zeigler said. "When you pick up the meteorite initially, you have no idea where it came from. You do not know what's inside of it. And so it's like an adventure novel almost and you get to look inside and decipher something about the early history of the solar system."

Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.