The story behind the Moon rock in the Biden Oval Office

Joe Biden sought after a Moon rock for his Oval Administrative center.

That’s how two body of workers contributors from NASA’s Johnson Area Middle ended up on a airplane from Houston to Washington, D.C., on Monday, January 18, two days prior to Biden’s inauguration, toting “lunar pattern 76015,143.”

The darkish grey, diamond-shaped rock weighs about three-quarters of a pound (332 grams), and it’s sealed in a tumbler and aluminum show case, stuffed with nitrogen, to forestall the rock from being suffering from air or humidity.

Biden’s Moon rock was once first noticed via a Washington Publish reporter traveling the redecorated Oval Administrative center on Inauguration Day, prior to Biden himself had set foot inside of. The Moon rock sits at the lowest shelf of the set of integrated bookshelves straight away to the left of the president’s Resolute Table.

Right through making plans for the incoming president’s workplace decor, “The White Area curator’s workplace contacted NASA to look if it was once conceivable to mortgage a lunar pattern for show within the Oval Administrative center,” experiences a NASA spokesperson via e mail, “and NASA was once glad to house the request.”

Biden sought after the rock as a reminder of the ambition and accomplishments of earlier Oval Administrative center occupants—of the ability of asking American citizens to succeed in past themselves.

On Thursday, Might 25, 1961, at 12:30 p.m., when President John F. Kennedy took the rostrum within the U.S. Area of Representatives and issued his well-known name that “this country will have to dedicate itself to reaching the function, prior to this decade is out, of touchdown a person at the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Kennedy was once asking American citizens to do one thing that was once then, somewhat actually, inconceivable. The rustic didn’t have the generation, or the figuring out, to fly to the Moon. However, as Kennedy foretold, it could now not simply be American astronauts touchdown at the Moon, however “it’ll be a complete country. For all people should paintings to position [them] there.” Going to the Moon, Kennedy would later say, was once the type of function that serves “to arrange and measure the most efficient of our energies and abilities.”

[Photo: NASA]

The precise Moon rock NASA despatched to President Biden was once amassed at the 3rd Moon stroll of Apollo 17—this is, the remaining Moon stroll of the remaining U.S. Moon touchdown, on December 13, 1972.

The pattern was once already fixed in its swish show case—which has all glass aspects and a tumbler window on best, so the rock will also be observed from all angles—prior to Biden’s request. The case has a label that explains how the rock got here again to Earth: Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan and geologist and lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt “chipped this pattern from a big boulder on the base of the North Massif within the Taurus-Littrow Valley” of the Moon.

At the day it was once amassed, November 7, 1972, Biden had simply been elected to the U.S. Senate for the primary time from Delaware, and was once making ready to take workplace in January. He was once 30 years outdated.

Biden’s Oval Administrative center Moon rock is in fact a slice of the bigger, 6.2-pound rock Cernan and Schmitt in the beginning amassed, which has been lower into smaller items for clinical learn about. Because of this, it has one abnormal aspect, peppered with tiny micrometeorite affect craters from its lifestyles at the Moon, and a few utterly flat aspects, the place it’s been lower the use of a rock noticed in a NASA laboratory.

Biden isn’t the primary U.S. president to stay a Moon rock within the Oval Administrative center. Invoice Clinton was once president in July 1999 right through the 30th anniversary birthday celebration of the primary Moon landings. The Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—offered Clinton with a Moon rock they’d amassed, additionally in a sealed show case, right through an Oval Administrative center consult with at the day of the anniversary. In a 2015 interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Clinton stated the Moon rock was once “essentially the most treasured factor I had for point of view in politics within the White Area.”

For the remaining two years of his presidency, Clinton informed deGrasse Tyson, he stored the Apollo 11 Moon rock proper to hand. “Once we’d have Republicans and Democrats in [the Oval Office], or other people on two aspects of any factor, and so they’d get started in reality, in reality getting out of keep an eye on, I’d say, ‘Wait, wait, wait—you spot that Moon rock? It’s three.6 billon years outdated. Now, we’re all simply passing thru right here. And we don’t have very a lot time. So let’s simply chill out and determine what the correct factor to do is.’

“And it labored each and every unmarried time,” Clinton stated. “They had been taking a look at an object that existed at a time they may hardly ever consider. And it simply gave them that little little bit of area of their thoughts and spirit to take a look at to determine, k, let’s move at this another time.”

NASA says the Moon rock Biden has on show is even older than Clinton’s: three.nine billion years. Most likely expecting that his Oval Administrative center conversations could also be much more difficult than Clinton’s.


Charles Fishman is the writer of One Massive Bounce: The Unattainable Project That Flew Us to the Moon. At the instance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon touchdown, Fishman wrote and produced our 50 Days to the Moon collection.

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