Today the Goddard Space Flight Center is home to scientists, engineers, technologists, spacecraft, instruments and new technology developed to study the Earth,
the sun, our solar system, and the universe.
Millions of years ago, plant-eating dinosaurs roamed the region where NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center would eventually be built.
One particular dinosaur left a deep imprint in the Cretaceous mud. Now, after so many years, it has finally been discovered.
On Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, noted dinosaur hunter Ray Stanford shared the location of that footprint with Goddard's facility management and the Washington
"This was a large, armored dinosaur," Stanford said. "Think of it as a four-footed tank. It was quite heavy, there's a quite a ridge or push-up here.
… Subsequently the sand was bound together by iron-oxide or hematite, so it gave us a nice preservation, almost like concrete."
Stanford, a "proud amateur dinosaur tracker" has had several papers published, including the discovery of a new species of nodosaur from a fossilized hatchling
found near the University of Maryland in College Park.
He previously confirmed the authenticity of this track with David Weishampel of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, author of the book "Dinosaurs of the East
He had material from the same Cretaceous-era sedimentary rock dated, with help from the US Geological Survey, to approximately 110- to 112-million years old,
by analyzing pollen grains sealed in the stone.
The Cretaceous Period ran between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago, and was the last period of the Mesozoic Era.
Click on image to enlarge
This imprint shows the right rear foot of a nodosaur - a low-slung, spiny leaf-eater - apparently moving in haste as the heel did not fully settle
in the cretaceous mud, according to dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford.
It was found recently on NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center campus and is being preserved for study. Credit: Ray Stanford
This dinosaur is from Utah, but it represents the sort of dinosaur that made the track found at the Maryland NASA campus. Photo by Kabacchia
The fossil is even more spectacular given the rarity of dinosaur bones found in the area. Paleontologists have discovered teeth and bone fragments over
the years-including bones from "Capitalsaurus" in Washington, D.C.- but even partially complete skeletons remain elusive. Dinosaur tracks are far more common, and,
according to the
Washington Post, Stanford may have discovered a footprint of an adult ankylosaur
in an unexpected place.
Goddard Facilities Manager Alan Binstock said the agency considers the footprint and its location "sensitive but unclassified."
The footprint is on federal land, so improperly removing it could potentially violate three laws: the Antiquities Act, the Archaeological
Resources Protection Act and the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act.
NASA officials will next consult with the State of Maryland and paleontologists to form a plan for documenting and preserving the find, Binstock said.
Stanford also identified and presented several smaller footprints - three-toed, flesh-eating therapods - to Goddard officials from the same site.
Dinosaur tracker Ray Stanford describes the cretaceous-era nodosaur track he found on the Goddard Space Flight Center campus this year.
He called the location of the find "poetic."
"Space scientists may walk along here, and they're walking exactly where this big, bungling heavy armored dinosaur walked,
maybe 110 to 112-million years ago," Stanford said.
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