Members of the Shropshire Astronomical Society (SAS) hosted the sessions, which included youngsters from Southfields Special School who got to handle some genuine meteorites as part of a science day.
The rare samples were provided free of charge by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) which provides educational packs in a bid to inspire young people to get involved in science and complement classroom studies. It is is the only authorised source to loan lunar samples to educational and scientific organisations in the UK.
The pack provided by the STFC included a 1.2 billion-year-old piece of Mars rock and a 4.3 billion-year-old nickel meteorite. It is considered unlikely students will ever get the chance to hold an object older than this, as Earth itself was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
The lunar samples were collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s during some of NASA’s first manned space missions to the Moon. During these missions, a staggering 382kg of material was brought back to Earth – mostly for use by scientists, but small quantities are used to develop educational packs for outreach work to inspire the public.
Executive Chair of the STFC, Professor Mark Thomson, said: “We are thrilled to be able to offer this unique opportunity to young people. It is not often they will be able to see close-up, and actually touch, such important fragments of science history.
" Samples like these can tell us a great deal about the planets, from which they originate, but there is still much to learn – and STFC hopes these packs will encourage students to become the next generation of astronomers.
"They are also vital in teaching us more about our solar system, allowing us to confront theory with fact.
"We hope this experience will encourage the students to take up a career in science.”