Hunting moon rocks with a mobile phone

NASA and Gowalla team to create a scavenger-hunt game

NASA has teamed with social-media company Gowalla to create a type of scavenger hunt using NASA locations around the country. Astronaut Mike Massimino, known for tweeting while on a space walk, is particiapting in the project.

Gowalla specializes in mobile services centered around travel. Users can report their locations, share photos and recommendations and earn rewards from local merchants, with friends from Facebook or Twitter. For the NASA project, users can find NASA-related information and, if they visit NASA's venues around the country, they can find four virtual items -- moon rocks, a NASA patch, a spacesuit and a space shuttle -- that they can then keep or trade with other users.

Massimino, known as @astro_mike on Twitter, will also drop virtual items at venues around the country.

The game, and the prizes, are mostly virtual. However, the first 100 users to find three of the virtual items will get a prize they can hold: A map called “Search for the Moon Rocks" showing various space-related sites around the country.  See it here.

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Friday Feature: Are the moon rocks real?

There is a conspiracy theory arguing that the Apollo moon landings were faked, staged and filmed with special effects. YouTube hosts a long list of videos purporting to show revealing mistakes that prove the case. Here's one that seems to show a stagehand visible for just a moment on the right edge of the frame:

 

 

While this one purports to show how the "fake" was faked:

 

According to a report on mashable.com, users can find the virtual moon rock items anywhere real moon rocks from the Apollo missions are on display. They can find other items at NASA’s visitor centers and various science centers and planetariums that are part of the agency’s Museum Alliance.

"The United States successfully brought lunar samples back to Earth during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions," wrote NASA officials in a news release. "NASA provides a number of lunar samples for display at museums, planetariums and scientific expositions around the world. Most lunar displays are open to the public."

"The game is a win-win for both parties," wrote Jolie O'Dell at mashable. "NASA gets fun incentives to generate foot traffic through its venues, and Gowalla gets a high-profile partnership with a fascinating organization."

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