The 50th anniversary of America’s first lunar landing on July 20, 1969 has us looking at moon rocks in the museum’s collection. The museum has two moon rock specimens. One, pictured above, is on exhibit and was brought to Earth in 1972 during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, the last of the six manned moon landings. Maine’s moon rock from that mission is one of 135 samples presented by President Richard Nixon to foreign nations and each of the 50 U.S. states. This thumbnail-sized specimen, a basalt composed of minerals commonly found on Earth, is encased in an acrylic globe. It is mounted on a walnut plaque, along with a small Maine state flag that was carried to the moon during the Apollo 17 mission.
Pictured here, but not currently on exhibit, are even smaller specimens, also encased in a small acrylic globe. These specimens were collected by astronauts during the 1969 lunar mission. The fragments are so small because astronauts brought only 48 pounds of moon rock back to Earth in 1969. Of that total, about 20 pounds were released by NASA for distribution to thousands of scientists, governors of each of the 50 states, and several foreign governments.
People all over Maine were fascinated by these moon rock specimens from the Apollo 11 mission. Soon after the specimens were presented to Maine, the museum organized a traveling exhibit that was seen by over 30,000 people statewide.