A moon rock in the Oval Office: President Joe Biden’s lunar exhibit

Joe Biden was three weeks away from taking office as first-year U.S. Senator when moon rock which is now recently on display at the White House was collected by astronauts on the lunar surface.

Six terms in Congress, two terms as Vice President of the United States and a presidential inauguration later, Biden and the Lunar Sample 76015,143 will now share the Oval Office.

The Biden administration requested a moon rock recovered by Apollo for display as “a symbolic recognition of the ambitions and achievements of previous generations, and support for America’s current approach to exploration from the Moon to Mars” according to NASA. The 0.7 pound (333 gram) rock, held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits on the lower shelf of a recessed bookcase next to a painted portrait of Ben Franklin and next to the Resolute office.

“Thank you to the President of the United States for putting a NASA Lunar Rock in the Oval Office – see what we can do together as a country when we are united, ”Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, wrote on Twitter, responding to a photo of the newly redecorated room posted by The Washington Post Wednesday (January 20).

Related: Presidential visions for space: from Ike to Biden

From the moon to the bedroom (via Berlin)

Lunar sample 76015143, collected by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972, is a 0.7 pound (333 gram) slice of a larger boulder that was chipped on a boulder on the moon. It is now on display in the Oval Office of the White House. (Image credit: NASA)

A descriptive plaque on the basis of the White House’s moon rock display explains that the 3.9 billion year old sample was chipped “from a large boulder at the base of the northern massif in the valley of Taurus-Littrow “by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, the last (to date) humans to walk on the moon.

Cernan and Schmitt, along with Command Module pilot Ron Evans, returned the sample and others like it, to Earth on December 19, 1972 (lunar sample 76015 was collected 6 days earlier on December 13, 1972).

Once delivered to the lunar reception laboratory at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center (today, Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas, the 6.2 pound (2819 gram) bedrock was cut into smaller pieces, including number 143, the irregularly shaped sample now in the Oval Office.

Before arriving at Biden’s White House, the same moon rock was exhibited at the German Museum of Technology (Deutsches Technikmuseum) in Berlin.

“We chose this sample as a good representation of both the uniqueness of the lunar samples, the tiny craters made up of micrometeorites visible on one side, and evidence of ongoing scientific research on the sample visible in the apartment. , sides sawn, ”a NASA spokesperson told collectSPACE.com.

Related: Biden administration appoints Steve Jurczyk acting chief of NASA

Second sample

President Bill Clinton (center) is presented with a moon rock by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong and his wife, Carol Armstrong, alongside Apollo 11 teammates Michael Collins (far left) and Buzz Aldrin (at right) and his wife Lois Aldrin, in the Oval Office on July 20, 1999. (Image credit: Tim Sloan / AFP via Getty)

Biden is the first president to request that a moon rock be displayed in the Oval Office on his first day in office, but 76,015,143 is the second lunar sample to be on long-term loan to the White House.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1999, Apollo 11 Teammates Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins visited then-President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office when NASA loaned the White House a moon rock from the mission, Lunar Sample 10057.30. The stone, at Clinton’s request, remained on display in the room until he left office in January 2001.

“The most valuable thing I had for the political perspective in the White House was a moon rock,” Clinton told astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. in an interview for National Geographic “StarTalk” in 2015. “I put moon rock on the table and for the next couple of years when we had Republicans and Democrats, or people on both sides of whatever problem, and they really, really started to get out of hand, I would say, “Wait, wait, wait – you see that moon rock, it’s 3.6 billion years old. Now we’re just passing through here and we don’t have much time, so let’s calm down and find out what the right thing to do is. And it worked every time. “

“They were looking at an object that existed at a time that they could barely imagine and it just gave them this little space in their minds and their minds to try to figure out, okay, let’s do it one more time,” Clinton said. .

At least one other moon rock has visited the White House, although it was only on loan from NASA for one day and was on display in the Roosevelt Room, outside the Oval Office.

One of 10 “touchstones” – exposed pieces of sample 70215 mounted so that the audience can touch a piece of the moon – the rock of Apollo 17 was present on December 11, 2017 for the signing of Directive 1 on space policy, which asked NASA to send astronauts back to the moon and then to Mars, thus laying the foundation for the current space agency Artemis program.

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