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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.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker