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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.

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.