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National Museum of Australia

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Sample of rock collected on the moon during the Apollo XVII Mission, 1972

1984.0009.0001

Sample of rock collected on the moon during the Apollo XVII Mission, 1972

Object information

Physical description

A sample of moon rock embedded in a perspex globe which is mounted on a stained wood plaque together with a small Australian flag under a perspex cover. There are also two aluminium text labels. The label under the rock states: "This fragment is a portion of a rock from the / Taurus Littrow Valley of the Moon. It is given / as a symbol of the unity of human endeavor / and carries with it the hope of the American / people for a world of peace.". The label under the Australian flag states: "This flag of your nation was carried to the Moon aboard / Spacecraft America during the Apollo XVII mission, / December 7-19, 1972. / Presented to the people of the COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA / From the people of the United States of America. / RICHARD NIXON / 1973". The back of the wooden plaque is covered in a single piece of green felt.

Statement of significance

The Department of Science and the Environment collection comprises a sample of rock collected on the moon during the Apollo XVII Mission in 1972. The sample, embedded within a perspex globe, is mounted on wooden plaque, together with a small Australian flag which accompanied the Apollo spaceflight to the moon.

The sample is a fragment of a larger rock collected by Apollo XVII Commander Eugene Cernan and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt, a professional geologist, who explored the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley during the eleventh and final manned mission in the American Apollo space program in 1972. The rock, composed of many fragments, of many shapes and sizes, probably from all parts of the Moon, and billions of years old, was regarded by Cernan as a symbol of the 'unity in diversity' of humankind and also of the Apollo Program's desire for future world peace and harmony. Three months after Apollo 17 returned home in December 1972, then-U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered the distribution of fragments from the rock that Cernan and Schmitt collected, since labelled sample 70017, to 135 foreign heads of state, the 50 U.S. states and its provinces. A letter, signed by President Nixon, accompanied the samples that were transferred to foreign heads of state. The lunar sample is an item of national historical and scientific significance, as a symbol of humankind's scientific achievements in space exploration, and marking an historic point of space exploration in which humans, for the first time, landed on, explored, and returned safely from, the moon.

Object information

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