Dinosaurs Walked Within Miles of the Burchick’s Greenbelt Residence

NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Our neighbor and friend Tom D’Asto works at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and was able to give us a private tour of the just added Earth Science Center display of the the now famous slab of dinosaur footprints found on NASA campus.  I was born and raised in Greenbelt, Maryland and my brother Terry stills lives in our family home, which is a few miles away from the fossil site.

You are viewing a full-size, high resolution cast made from a latex mold of the entire excavated ironstone slab from about 110 million years ago, discovered at GSFC in June of 2012, but only now being made available for view.  On this surface, more than 70 footprints of vertebrates reveal, in a way that bones and teeth never could, interactions among dinosaurs, mammals and flying reptiles.

Mammal tracks from the dinosaur age are rare.  At least 26 mammal tracks have been identified on the Goddard slab.  Three different mammal track types are apparent.  The most striking pair of mammal tracks are provisionally named Sederipes goddarensis, referring to a sitting-on-haunches posture.

Use the guide above to interpret some of the following photographs.  Click on the image to enlarge it, and click the back button tab to go back into the blog story.

The 12-inch wide dinosaur footprint of a Nodosaur was the only portion of the footprint-bearing surface that was visible above ground in June of 2012 when Ray Stanford discovered it at GSFC.  It was located where construction was about to begin for the new Flight Projects Building.  It was only after excavating the track to preserve it from being destroyed, that the vast assemblage of tracks was discovered.

Excavation of the track-bearing substrate revealed that the 14-inch wide discovery track was part of an ironstone slab that was nearly 9-feet long by just over 3-feet wide.  Approximately 110 million years ago, dinosaurs, mammals, and flying reptiles had walked over the surface, leaving tracks during a period of probably no more than a day or two!  Awesome!  It makes me wonder what type of event caused a near immediate silt-covering load to be splayed over the track surface, preserving such crisp prints that we now see?

The massive foot impression of a Sauropod!

Can you say Mammal Tracks!

Fossilized dino poop, a.k.a. coprolite, upper center right, darker image, then with an avian theropod track in the lower center of the photo.

I was in awe as I imagined myself at the scene eons back in time, maybe even shock & awe!

Tom, Jennifer and Michelle pulled me away from the building and we went on to see projects that Tom is working on.

More shock & awe as I got to see the the Space Environment Simulator, and design/build facility of the Hubble, upcoming James Webb and Parker Space Probe.

The near-future WFIRST, wide field infrared telescope will eventually be launched on rockets not yet in service, and will be capable of seeing the “first light” of the universe!  NASA is even thinking beyond these particular space telescopes with concepts that are mind blowing.  USA!

Thank you Tom D’Asto.


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