WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach, a Moon rock now sits in the Oval Office of the White House. At the request of the incoming Biden Administration, NASA loaned the Moon rock that was put on display in the Oval Office Jan. 20. It is from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and its display case is inscribed with the following:
Lunar Sample 76015,143
Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last humans to set foot on the Moon, chipped this sample from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 3 km (almost 2 miles) from the Lunar Module. This 332 gram piece of the Moon (less than a pound), which was collected in 1972, is a 3.9-billion-year-old sample formed during the last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon, the Imbrium Impact Basin, which is 1,145 km or 711.5 miles in diameter.
The irregular sample surfaces contain tiny craters created as micrometeorite impacts have sand-blasted the rock over millions of years. The flat, sawn sides were created in NASA’s Lunar Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for scientific research. This ongoing research is imperative as we continue to learn about our planet and the Moon, and prepare for future missions to the cislunar orbit and beyond.
This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 10, the final mission before the first manned landing on the moon by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
During the 8-day voyage, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan took the lunar module (LM) to within 47,400 feet (14.4 km) of the lunar surface before rendezvousing with the command service module (CSM) piloted by John Young.
NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died on Monday at the age of 88, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year and the second who was involved in a lunar mission.
Gordon was command module pilot for Apollo 12, which saw Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walk on the moon in November 1969. Gordon stayed in orbit aboard aboard the command service module Yankee Clipper while his colleagues explored the lunar surface. It was the second and final spaceflight for Gordon, who flew aboard Gemini 10 with Conrad three years earlier.
In a move destined to anger NewSpace advocates, Mitt Romney has released a letter of support signed by eight space leaders, including prominent commercial space critics Mike Griffin, Scott Pace and Gene Cernan. Pace, in fact, is chairman of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group.
“We have watched with dismay as President Obama dismantled the structure that was guiding both the government and commercial space sectors, while providing no purpose or vision or mission,” the signers wrote. “This failure of leadership has thrust the space program into disarray and triggered a dangerous erosion of our technical workforce and capabilities. In short, we have a space program unworthy of a great nation.”