A new decoration on display in Joe Biden’s Oval Office is, quite literally, out of this world. NASA has loaned out a 3.9-billion-year-old moon rock that space explorers chipped from a lunar boulder during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, which is the last time humans stepped foot on the moon.
The pocked, charcoal-gray moon rock, protected by a glass case and perched on a shelf in the Oval Office, comes as a request from the new administration. The moon rock made its way to the White House on Inauguration Day and is on loan from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The 332-gram rock (which translates to roughly 0.75 pounds) that’s now on display in the Oval Office is there in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments as well as support for America’s current “Moon to Mars” exploration, according to NASA.
Here’s what the moon rock looks like:
NASA’s human lunar exploration plans under the Artemis program call for sending the first woman and next man to the surface of the moon by 2024 for a week-long expedition. As part of the Artemis program, both humans and robots will be searching for, and potentially extracting, resources such as water that can be converted into oxygen and fuel.
To date, a dozen people have walked the moon. They’ve all been American men. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first two human beings to walk the moon’s surface as a part of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar landing.
The moon rock that’s on display in the Oval Office was collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan.
According to NASA, the moon rock (known as Lunar Sample 76015,143) contains tiny craters that were formed as micrometeorite impacts sand-blasted the rock over millions of years. The flat sides were created in NASA’s Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for research.
Back in October, NASA was seeking proposals from private companies interested in collecting samples of lunar rock, dust or ice materials and is willing to pay up to $25,000 for lunar regolith samples that are collected and brought to Earth safely.
We think Biden’s new office decor, well, rocks!