By Sheila Wickouski

On July 16, 1969, the spaceship Apollo 11 landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. The journey had taken 4 days, 6 hours and 45 minutes to get there from earth. 

While people who are alive today may one day have the possibility of going further into space, even to land on other planets, there is one trip we can never take in real life: going back 4.5 billion years when it all started with the formation of the earth. 

To see what it might have been like, take a journey to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s reopening of its Fossil Hall.  

The exhibit, “Deep Time,”starts with the present and moves back in time. It does not just display dinosaur bones, it explains what might have led to their evolution and their extinction. 

There are some show-stopping moments because these dinosaurs are doing more than just posing. A tyrannosaurus rex,known as “The Nation’s T-Rex,” has pounced on a triceratops, dubbed Hatcher, which it has either killed or found dead to eat. A gigantic diplodocus stretches its neck across the width of the gallery and a nearby camarasaurus nobbles on fake trees.Behind them are two more Jurassic dinosaurs, ceratosaurus and stegosaurus, engaged in a fatal combat.   

From the Triassic period, around 220 million years ago, there is a pterosaur, or winged reptile, as well as a diversity of life that emerged from the oceans. With over 700 remains, there are also small fossils of insects and plants.

As exciting as these moments are, there is more to explore, more fossils to touch, and a real-life fossil lab to observe paleontologists at work.

“Deep Time”will answer a lot of questions, but it also poses one to its visitors, who will wonder about how much faster the rate of extinction of species is in our own lifetime. 

Like a trip to the moon, it doesn’t end here, as there is so much more to explore and discover. 

BONE UP ON YOUR FOSSILS

What do their names mean?

tyrannosaurus rex: tyrant lizard king 

triceratops: three-horned face

diplodocus: “double beam” dinosaur

camarasaurus: chambered lizard

 ceratosaurus: horn lizard

 stegosaurus: “roof” lizard

pterosaur: winged lizard

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