Today in History... a meteorite older than the Earth lands

1969 is a well-remembered year for space enthusiasts. It was by far the most important year for the Apollo program with a total of four men landing on the moon.

But in February, whilst that all seemed a long way off even at NASA, another important event for space fans occurred. A car sized piece of rock entered the atmosphere and broke up, depositing tons of material in a 50km long strip in Pueblito de Allende, Chihuahua, Mexico.

The Allende meteorite was by far the largest carbonaceous chondrite to be found, and became the best studied in history. Along with other carbonaceous chondrites, it contains material 4.567 billion years old - 30 million years older than Earth and the oldest material people have encountered.

The meteorite was well studied because scientists were preparing to study moon rocks, which they were hoping against hope would be brought back by the Apollo missions. But fragments of the Allende went on to be some of the earliest sellers in the collectibles market for space rocks in their own right.

A piece of the Allende meteorite, broken in half
A piece of the Allende meteorite, broken in half

Over a dozen pieces have been sold at Bonhams alone, notably a 1kg piece in April 2008 which brought $7,800, whilst a piece weighing just 147g (and broken in half) sold for $1,912 at Heritage just last month.

Space collectors looking for memorabilia from the Apollo 11 and 12 moon landings of 1969 will be interested to know that photographs of the Apollo 11 team signed by Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and even the no-longer-signing Neil Armstrong are currently available.

Michael Collins's flight suit is also available, as is a complete set of all 10 Moonwalkers' signatures.


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Images: Heritage (Allende meteorite); Navicore (meteorite fall) 

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