NASA finds footsteps of dinosaurs

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's now home to space scientists, but a NASA complex in Maryland was once the stomping grounds of a prehistoric dinosaur. Amateur dinosaur hunter Ray Stanford announced last week that he had discovered a rare cretaceous footprint from a nodosaur at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, likely left more than 110 million years ago.
"This is really quite a rare find," Stanford said in a video posted to NASA's website this week. "Nodosaur tracks are not often found," he added. "There are some out west and up in British Columbia and Canada, but we don't have a whole lot of them in the U.S."
Stanford told the Washington Post that the plant-eating dinosaur made the nearly 14-inch-wide imprint with his back left foot. He believes the dinosaur was running - potentially away from a predator - when it left the print. NASA scientists, excited by the discovery, have accepted Stanford's research, and will reportedly bring in more expert opinions to fully confirm the finding.
So far, the professionals seem sold. "Ray showed it to me, and I was overwhelmed," Johns Hopkins dinosaur expert and "Jurassic Park" consultant David Weishampel told the Post. "As a scientist, I'm skeptical of things like this. But it has all the detail you want. It's got foot prints and sort of a heel print that's starting to erode away."
Stanford showed off his discovery to NASA officials and local media on Friday, dusting off the print with a paintbrush to show off the detail. NASA's federal preservation officer suggested once they are able to preserve it properly, the footprint could be put on display for visitors - though that is a ways off.
"It's not something I want to make a tourist attraction at this point," she said. "We don't want people barreling down there with shovels," she added, though "ultimately, we want people to be able to see it, because it's very exciting."
In his announcement to reporters, Stanford urged more efforts toward conservation, arguing that finds like this could be under our noses all the time. "What really threw me about this one was because I found it at Goddard Space Flight Center and I love the paradox," he said.
"Space scientists walk along here, and they're walking exactly where this big bungling heavy armored dinosaur walked maybe 110 to 112 million years ago."
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