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Goodwill moon rock on display at New York State Museum

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
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Students and teachers from Mont Pleasant Middle School in Schenectady look over a moon rock fragment at the New York State Museum in Albany on Wednesday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Students and teachers from Mont Pleasant Middle School in Schenectady look over a moon rock fragment at the New York State Museum in Albany on Wednesday.

— Forty years after the last manned lunar mission, a piece of rock brought back by astronauts is on display at the New York State Museum.

The rock collected during Apollo 17’s mission in December 1972 is part of the museum’s permanent collection and will be displayed in the lobby until Feb. 10.

It was placed out for the public Wednesday, and people gravitated toward it right away, said Mark Schaming, museum director.

Museum staffers weren’t sure how children would react to the small rock, which measures less than 2 inches and was collected in a time period today’s youth may consider ancient history.

“There’s a whole generation or more of people who aren’t thinking about walking on the moon,” Schaming said, but “within minutes, there were kids looking at it.

“Right away, people clustered around it.”

The museum’s moon rock was originally part of a larger rock called sample 70017 that was collected by NASA astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, who dedicated it to all the young people of Earth.

President Richard Nixon in 1973 presented fragments of the rock to all 50 U.S. states and 135 foreign heads of state. The fragments were known as the Goodwill moon rocks.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller received New York’s piece and gave it to the State Museum.

The collected moon rock is 3.7 billion years old and taken from the moon’s Taurus-Littrow Valley.

Schmitt, Cernan and astronaut Ronald E. Evans made the trip to do geological surveying, sample rocks, conduct surface and in-flight experiments and take high-resolution photographs. Schmitt was the only geologist to ever walk on the moon’s surface, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s website.

Apollo 17 was the longest — and final — manned lunar mission. Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon.

 
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