Moon Rocks Found

Reminiscent of the ending of the first Indiana Jones movie, Apollo 11 moon rocks have been discovered in a government storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul. No one can explain how they got there or how long they’ve been there.

Five moon rocks the size of pebbles are part of a transparent desktop display that includes a small Minnesota flag, one of 50 state flags flown along on the first moon-landing mission. Every state received one of these moon rock displays from President Richard Nixon to commemorate Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s visit to the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

Minnesota actually deserves credit, not censure: at least they know where theirs is. A former historian for the Minnesota National Guard checked up and found most of the moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and 17 missions given by Nixon as goodwill gestures are unaccounted for today.

Now that the display has been found, it will be transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society on November 28 in a ceremony before a gathering of children at Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) Minnesota. Located at the Minnesota Air National Guard base, STARBASE educates and encourages urban youngsters in the study of science, technology, engineering and math.

[Via Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol.]

9 thoughts on “Moon Rocks Found

  1. Boy, what does this say about how the public viewed the Apollo program at its peak. “Oh, how nice… some moon rocks in a cheesy lucite display. We’ll have to think of someplace prominent to put this for a year or two, until its forgotten about, then give it to the Salvation Army… “

  2. Can’t imagine how a veteran Republican-basher like you overlooked the timing. Within a couple years almost the whole country was bogged down in the Watergate hearings. Souvenirs from Nixon probably got thrown in the back of the closet around then.

  3. I don’t care if Nixon’s name is on them, they’re souvenirs from Kennedy and Johnson.

    “So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward — and so will space.

    “William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

    “If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

    “Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

    “Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

    “We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

    “There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

    “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

    Can anyone possibly imagine Richard Nixon ever saying such noble, stirring words?

  4. Nixon had only been in office six months when he got to preside over the moon landing, you’re right about that. But Johnson hadn’t even been a viable candidate for re-election due to the Vietnam War, so it’s not exactly as if calling them Johnson’s souvenirs would have helped.

    Kennedy was a fine speaker. I thought a lot of him when I was 7. Even got to visit his Senate office in the summer of 1960. He wasn’t around then, being busy campaigning.

  5. It is a fine irony that Nixon got to reap the glory of the Apollo program, but somebody who occupied the White House was going to be the poster boy for the Moon Landings, and it couldn’t have been Kennedy, even if he had lived — his second term of office would have expired in 1968, a few months before Apollo 11 landed.

    As for Nixon, I don’t think he was enthusiastic about a program begun by a Democratic administration, but as long as it gave him photo ops he wasn’t against it either. Wasn’t it congress who killed the final Apollo missions — thinking that moon landings diverted money away from more routine pork barrel spending?

  6. Tim Kyger tells me the peak in spending, in constant dollars, occurred during the era of the Gemini flights, most of the money going to R&D for Apollo, while Gemini’s and Apollo’s operating costs didn’t require as much money in comparison.

    Kennedy set the goal, Johnson got the appropriations through Congress which made the goal happen, in Kennedy’s memory. Regardless of when terms in office ended, both men were “poster boys” for the Lunar Landings.

    (There is a story, the veracity of which I don’t know, that after Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins returned to Earth, someone left a flower on John Kennedy’s grave with a note saying, “We made it, Mr. President.”)

    You’re right in that Nixon cared not for space exploration but used it for photo ops anyway. Space exploration was the project of John Kennedy, who Nixon hated with blood passion, so Nixon enjoyed cutting the budget. In fact he cut it so much that safety was compromised by the engineering bastardization which was the Shuttle program as it finally evolved. Had funding existed as required, the orbiter vehicle would have been a crew-only, not cargo vehicle, launched as a piggyback vehicle attached to a piloted launch jet (as is with the more modern Burt Rutan designs for Paul Allen and Sir Richard Branson), or on top of the stack (as Baron Dr. Werner von Braun had designed), rather than below the stack top where it was subject to damage from falling debris and had to use solid rocket external engines, which simply have never truly been safe enough for human launches.

    The worst thing Richard Nixon ever did was not Watergate on any of his other political misdeeds. The worst thing Richard Nixon ever did was make sure that the crews of the Challenger and Columbia would die from engineering compromises to meet inadequate budgets. I wish I believed in Hell so I could believe Richard Nixon was there.

  7. The piggyback option was certainly my choice of Best Way to Get Into Orbit. If that wasn’t feasible, then a stacked arrangement would certainly have been safer. The entire Shuttle program was a mess, though. Aside from the configuration, I understand that trying to adapt it to USAF missions were the main reason for the large aerodynamic surfaces. i.e. wings on a spaceship. They were to enable the Shuttle to maneuver to acquire spy satellites re-entering from polar orbits, or something like that. (It’s been a while since I read this.) In any case, the USAF eventually dropped that requirement, but it was already frozen into the design, adding unnecessary tons to the Shuttle, and unnecessary billions in cost. Working with the USAF had been made necessary only because of budget cuts. But … hey … wars are expensive, even when hiding as much of it as possible from the public.

  8. The Air Force allowed some of its development money to be used for the Shuttle in exchange for the shuttle being big enough to carry a Big Bird KH-11 or KH-12 spy satellite, which is why the huge cargo bay and the elimination of the launch-from-carrier-aircraft option. The requirements to use polar orbits were the reason the launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base was built, but the Air Force decided to continue to use throw-away boosters after the Challenger disaster. and the Vandenberg launch complex was “abandoned in place.”

    Changing equatorial to polar orbits is impossible for a shuttle orbiter as it cannot carry enough fuel into orbit for enough Delta-V to do it with the Orbital Maneuvering System engines. The presence of wings has nothing to do with that, but for atmospheric maneuvering after re-entry, the same as with Von Braun’s famous Collier’s Magazine three-stage design.

    The orbiter was big because the Air Force said “make it big so we can use it,” then didn’t use it.

  9. I guess that was it, then, the cargo bay size. Whatever the details, the involvement of the USAF in initial stages of the Shuttle design were detrimental to the program.

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