WASHINGTON - When Ray Stanford, an amateur fossil hunter, dropped his wife off for a lunch date at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center he never expected to stumble upon the biggest find of his life: a rock containing tons of dinosaur tracks, including a rare footprint from an adult Nodosaur.
"This is one of the best ones I have ever seen," Stanford told Fox 5. "Because of the wonderful squeeze-up from the mud from the tremendous weight. I mean, these things are like four-legged tanks."
The slab of rock is from the cretaceous period: 145 to 66 million years ago. During this period the average global temperature was 21 degrees warmer. In addition to the Nodosaur, it also contains tracks from more than 70 different animals from the period. Martin Lockley, an expert on dinosaur footprints said it's one of the best specimens of its kind on record.
"This is a big deal, said Lockley. "We have more and better mammal footprints that really have been found anywhere in the world from this time period."
And Stanford thinks there's poetry in the fact that this incredibly rare find was sitting in plane view at the space center.
"Astrophysicists are looking up into ancient time at the distant star systems," said Stanford. "And yet you can look down at their footprints and see ancient time up to 110 million years ago."