Western PhD student Patrick Hill convinced NASA to give him the moon.

The American space agency allowed Hill to use 12 samples of the moon for his research paper. Hill specializes in planetary science and space exploration and is currently working on his research paper that looks at moon samples to determine the formation and origin of the moon.

Hill’s current hypothesis is that early on in the solar system, a large body approximately the size of Mars collided with the Earth. From that debris and collision, the moon came into being and this had significant impactions for Earth during its early stages of formation.

The 12 samples of the moon come from the Apollo missions that went to the moon, with the exception of the Apollo 14 mission.

“The technique I’m implementing doesn’t require us to use huge amounts of samples,” Hill said. “I have between 40 milligrams to 120 milligrams and that’s basically the size of your fingernail, so it’s not too much, which is good because we only have so much of the moon.”

Ever since studying geology during his time as an undergraduate student at University of British Columbia, Hill has had a major interest in planetary science. Hill came to Western for his master's degree, which he has now upgraded to a PhD, because Western is the only school in Canada with a planetary science program.

“I’ve always been a really huge space nerd. We want to know how the moon got there because the moon is really unique. It’s unlike any other moon we see in the solar system.”

Due to the valuable nature of the moon samples, the samples are kept in a secure location on campus.

“They are stored in a vault, and it’s in a secure lock room in the Biology and Geology Sciences Building," Hill said. "It’s an unmarked room so no one knows they’re in there.”

So until Hill's completed his research, a small part of the moon remains right here on Western's campus.


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