- A moon rock collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 is in the Oval Office
- NASA loaned the sample at the request of the Biden Administration
- The rock is supported by a metal clamp and encased in a glass box
- The moon rock is placed on a bookshelf inside the Oval Office
- The Apollo 17 mission was the last NASA crew to step foot on the moon
- However, NASA is looking at 2024 to return humanity back to the moon When the Apollo 17 crew returned from the moon they brought back a 3.9-billion-year-old lunar rock that is now on display inside the White House’s Oval Office.
The small boulder held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits located on a bookshelf that features items intended to remind Americans of the ambition and accomplishments of earlier generations.
NASA loaned the moon rock, at the request of the Biden Administration, from its Lunar, from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.At the base of the structure is an inscription dedicated to the three men of the Apollo 17 mission, which was the last NASA astronauts to walk across the lunar surface.
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‘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,’ the inscription on the base reads.
‘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 diameterThe moon rock features a number of tiny craters formed by micrometeorite impacts that have blasted it for over millions of years.
There is also a flat side of the sample that was created in NASA’s Lunar Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for scientific research.
During the Apollo 17 mission, Cernan and Schmitt spent 22 hours on the moon’s surface in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead.
The team carried out a series of experiments including seismic profiling, atmospheric composition analysis and lunar sampling, and brought a few souvenirs home with them including the rock now showcased in the Oval Office.
Prior to arriving at the White House this week, the moon rock was on display at the German Museum of Technology in Berlin.
President Joe Biden is the first president to request this specific sample, but it is the second to take a place in the White House.
In 1999, former President Bill Clinton invited the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, to the White House in honor of NASA’s 30th anniversary of the first moon landing and was loaned lunar sample 10057,30 – a moon rock taken during the 1969 mission.
The moon rock currently sitting in the Oval Office, cataloged as lunar sample 76015,143, also marks history, as it was the last time NASA went to the moon, but is a sign of the future as the US prepares to make its return in 2024.
Dubbed the Artemis mission, this will see the first woman and next moon step foot on the moon for the first time since 1972.
However, the mega-rocket set to return America to the moon has had trouble during firing tests.
On January 16, NASA’s Space Launch System was set to undergo a hot fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, which would be the last test as part of a 'Green Run' of eight tests.
But, a 'major component failure' occurred in one of the rockets, which forced the safe shutdown of all four rockets.
There's no timeline on potentially running the test again, but SpaceNews reports that it would likely take at least another week to run a new test, should NASA decide to do so.
NASA planned on sending the Space Launch System's core to the Kennedy Space Center in February to combine with the Orion spacecraft, but that is now in doubt.
The Trump Administration set out a timeline that would have the Space Launch System be part of getting astronauts back to the moon by 2024, but President Biden has not committed to that same timeline.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the Moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 - including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the Moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.