Jan 26, 2021 - Science

What to know about the Moon rock in Biden's Oval Office

Moon rock displayed in a glass container.

The Moon rock now in the Oval Office. Photo: NASA

President Joe Biden hasn't revealed much about his space policy priorities yet, but space fans can take heart that space is on his mind, thanks to an Apollo Moon rock that now decorates the Oval Office.

Why it matters: The Moon rock — loaned to the White House by NASA — is on display "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to a statement from NASA.

Background: The Moon rock was collected in 1972 by Apollo 17's Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, who "chipped this sample from a large boulder" while they were about 2 miles away from their Lunar Module, according to NASA.

  • The rock — which is about 3.9 billion years old — weighs in at a little less than 1 pound.
  • "The irregular sample surfaces contain tiny craters created as micrometeorite impacts have sand-blasted the rock over millions of years," NASA said in the statement. "The flat, sawn sides were created in NASA’s Lunar Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for scientific research."

The big picture: This rock is the second sample from the Moon loaned to the White House from NASA for long-term display, according to Robert Pearlman, space historian and editor of Collectspace.com.

  • In 1999, NASA loaned the White House a Moon rock from Apollo 11 in honor of the 30th anniversary of the landing when Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin visited then-President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.
  • "The rock, at Clinton's request, remained on display in the room until he left office in January 2001," Pearlman wrote.
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