UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Shooting for the Moon

050411Feature_MoonRockOne unforgettable day in 1970, Debra Sea’s dad, a NASA science demonstrator, brought home a moon rock. The sense of wonder she felt as a 10-year-old remains with her today.

“It’s always been a source of inspiration,” says Sea, an MFA film student at UNCG. “I believe anything is possible, and I tie that belief back to my experience when I was 10.”

Sea wanted more children to have the same opportunity. The story of how she made that happen is told in her 12-minute thesis film, “Moon Rock,” created with support from one of only three 2011 Carole Fielding Student Grants awarded by the University Film & Video Association. Michael Frierson, associate professor of media studies, advised her throughout the project.

“Moon Rock” and three more thesis films by MFA students will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at the Weatherspoon Art Museum. A reception will start at 6 p.m.; a Q&A session with the filmmakers will follow the screening.

Assisted by first-year MFA student Adrienne Ostberg, Sea traveled to Hampton, Va., to borrow a moon rock from NASA; transported it to Minnesota; and brought her dad out of retirement to show the rock to schoolchildren.

NASA doesn’t lend its moon rocks lightly. Sea, who has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in geology, spent six months persuading the agency to lend her one of the priceless stones. Enclosed in a Lucite pyramid, the 115-gram rock has its own carrying case. A small brass plate on the case reads, “IF FOUND, RETURN TO – NASA, JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, HOUSTON, TEXAS 77058.”

There are rules for transporting and handling a moon rock. It must be kept in sight or in a safe. It can’t be kept in a motel room overnight. (This caused Sea and Ostberg to spend a night in an airport when their flight was cancelled.) Don’t touch the Lucite without gloves, because the oil from skin can damage and cloud the Lucite. The responsibility made sleep difficult for Sea and Ostberg.

“We took great care to follow the strict NASA rules because we really felt that we were safeguarding a treasure of the American people,” Sea says. “It was an honor and a privilege to show this moon rock to the kids.”

The rock was shown to three classes of fifth-graders, 75 students, at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary in the northern Minnesota town of Wadena (pop. 3,952). Sea’s brother David teaches fifth grade at the school.

“I was concerned that the fifth graders might be cynical – but they were extremely engaged,” Sea says. “I hope that they will continue to be inspired by the magic and wonder of science and will remember the day a moon rock came to their classroom.”

One of Sea’s earlier works, the experimental film “balance,” was a finalist for a Student Academy Award in the alternative category last year.

By Dan Nonte
Visual: A family photo, from 1970.