The Moon Rocks !!
"It's just lunch, Nora." Monette Serveille, the high school principal, was as close to begging as Nora Shekrie had ever seen the overworked woman. "You're a good judge of character, and I need someone outside to help me weed out two or three candidates. We have five great finalists for science teacher."
"What about other faculty members? I'd think they were the logical choices."
"They're already part of the process, and faculty cliques can get almost as bad as administration. Besides, you're already on the school board. Please?"
Nora didn't relish the sort of lunch that the school's personnel budget could afford, but she felt the responsibility of her position.
"Okay. But only this group. Someone else can do the next batch."
"Agreed. The first candidate is Wednesday. Meet us at Sub Standard at 11:50?"
"My favorite sandwich shop. Why the specific time? Classes?"
"Right. Can you make it?" Nora nodded, not totally sure what she was getting herself into.
Evaluation form in hand, Nora waited outside Sub Standard at 11:45. Monette introduced Rick Collinson. He seemed quite poised, and bowed over Nora's proffered hand with a grace that would play well whether or not he kissed it.
They ordered and grabbed an open booth near the back. After giving due respect to their sandwiches, Monette nudged Nora to start the informal part of the interview.
"I've read your resume, Mr. Collinson; quite impressive."
"Thank you. If it weren't, I have no doubt I wouldn't be here. The competition is pretty stiff. You have a good program."
"Thanks. Not my doing, I just joined the school board last month." He nodded acknowledgement. "Tell me, what are your interests beyond the basic curriculum? What extra hobbies or strengths do you bring to our community?" Nora had found the question in a book on interviewing in the school library. She liked the tone, especially because it gave her at least 30 seconds to down a healthy bite of her "knuckle sandwich".
"I coach chess. If necessary, I can teach any of the math classes, English grammar, ... well those are on the resume." The women nodded.
"I dabble in planetology," Rick continued, "especially selenology."
"Pardon?" Monette's one teaching strength was world history.
"Moon studies. I'm a lunatic." They all chuckled.
"Interesting," Nora said around a bit of lettuce. "How would you use this for your students?"
"Moon-gazing in the evenings. Planetarium trips. Practical applications in comparative planetary development."
Nora spoke up, wiping buffalo juice from her chin. "Practical?"
"Yes. My nephew is an astronaut. Well, he's in the program -- trained, but hasn't had a mission. The competition there makes teaching interviews seem like a driver's road test." Monette giggled. "He sometimes manages to get me small samples for educational use."
"Interesting. Such as?"
"Pieces of spent ceramic tile from a shuttle's heat shield. Photographs and data from the ISS, some of them quite interesting, but not flashy enough for the wire services. An occasional bit of discarded construction material."
"You spoke of comparative applications?"
"Something like that. After the Ph.D.s do their analyses, some of the results go public. I work with those a lot. Then there's my pride and joy ..." he waited.
Nora bit. "Which is?"
"A moon rock. It's tiny, but it's a real one. My nephew gave it to me for Christmas. Apollo XVII brought back so many rocks of one type that NASA released some extras for spreading around the educational community. I got one, from Patton crater."
"Named after General Patton?" Monette's eyes lit up; she knew about Patton.
"Right. It's some run-of-the-mill crater fairly near the landing site. I looked it up. Johannes Kepler himself discovered it. After he developed the optics for telescopes, he spent several weeks drawing a detailed map of the moon. He didn't name any of them, but Patton is one of a few hundred whose position is clear enough to leave no doubt. It depends on the surrounding features, too."
"Quite impressive," Nora said. "Both rock and research. You figured out which crater it was by yourself?"
"They gave me the name when I got the artifact; I simply verified what they'd told me from available records. Scientific method, and all that."
In the ladies' room a few minutes later, Monette asked Nora for an opinion.
"Well, he spins a good tale. Perhaps he'd work part-time in the library, telling stories to the elementary grades."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean he's unacceptable as a science teacher."
What had Nora noticed?
HintCheck your Michelin map of the Taurus-Littrow area (Apollo XVII landing site). 8-)
AnswerFirst of all, there's no crater named after General Patton. The governing body, International Astronomical Union, will not name any object after a post-1900 figure whose importance is mainly military, political, or religious.
Second, Kepler never made maps of craters. He did, indeed, develop most of the optical design for telescopes of his day. By that time, his eyesight was so poor that the telescopes did him little good. He worked his mathematics from the detailed observations of others.
Third, Rick referred to the moon rock as an "artifact", a word that refers to something made by humans ... unless he was claiming lunar inhabitants.
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