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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

Democrats propose raising debt ceiling through midterms

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House and Senate leadership announced on Monday that they plan to attach a proposal to raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 2022 to a short-term, government funding bill. The bill must pass before the end of the month or Congress risks a shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats are taking a huge risk by trying to force through an increase of the debt limit in its must-pass funding bill. The move is wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats who are hoping they can get at least 10 centrist Republicans to balk, as well as an effort to put Republicans on record opposing it.

Biden to stress U.S. does not seek new Cold War in UN speech

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden will use his first address before the UN General Assembly to lay out his vision for an era of "intensive diplomacy" with allies and "vigorous competition" with great powers — without a Cold War with China.

Why it matters: Biden will take the podium in New York on Tuesday with his own international credibility in question after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration also is struggling to build international momentum to fight climate change, the pandemic and rising global authoritarianism.