Arkansas lunar sample displays

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Bill Clinton, newly elected Governor of Arkansas (right) speaks with Jimmy Carter (left) in 1978.

The Arkansas lunar sample displays are two commemorative plaques consisting of small fragments of moon specimen brought back with the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 lunar missions and given in the 1970s to the people of the state of Arkansas by United States President Richard Nixon as goodwill gifts.[1][2]

Description[edit]

Messages on Apollo 11 display

Apollo 11[edit]

The Arkansas Apollo 11 lunar sample plaque display consists of four "moon rock" rice-size particle specimens that were collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, and a small Arkansas state flag that was taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11.[1]

The four "moon rocks" weigh about 0.05 grams total and are entirely enveloped in a clear plastic button the size of a coin which is mounted to a wooden board approximately a foot square on a small podium pedestal display. The small podium plaque display also has mounted on it a small Arkansas state flag that had been taken to the moon and back, which lies directly below the "goodwill moon rocks". The small podium plaque display was given to the people of the state of Arkansas as a gift by President Richard Nixon. Similar lunar sample displays were also distributed to all the other states of the United States and all the countries (at the time) of the world.[1]

The messages at the bottom of the wooden podium plaque display read

First message:

Presented to
the people of the State of
Arkansas
by
Richard Nixon,
President of the United States of America.[1]


Second message:

This flag of your state was carried
to the moon and back by Apollo 11 and
this fragment of the moon's surface was
brought to earth by the crew of that first
manned lunar landing.[1]


Apollo 17[edit]

Message on Apollo 17 plaque

The Arkansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display commemorative style plaque, measuring 10 by 14 inches, consists of one "moon rock" particle specimen that was cut from lunar basalt 70017 and an Arkansas state flag. The basalt 70017 was collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt on the moon in 1972. Once lunar basalt 70017 was brought back to earth from the moon, the basalt moon rock was cut up into small fragments of approximately 1 gram. The piece of "moon rock" given to Arkansas weighed about 1.142-gram (0.0025 lb). The specimen was encased in a plastic ball that was mounted on the wooden plaque along with the Arkansas state flag which had been taken to the moon and back by the crew of Apollo 17. The plaque was then distributed in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to the state of Arkansas as he did that year to the other 49 states (the same as for the Apollo 11 plaque gifts). This was done as a goodwill gesture to promote peace and harmony.[2][3]

History[edit]

The Arkansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display was first presented to Arkansas governor David Pryor in 1976 and the people of the State of Arkansas. Bill Clinton succeeded Pryor as Governor of Arkansas.[4] Valued at several million dollars, the Arkansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display with the "goodwill moon rock" was reported missing around 1980 when Clinton lost his first re-election as Governor of Arkansas. Apparently the memorial plaque with the "moon rocks" had been packed away with Clinton's gubernatorial papers and was forgotten about for some 30 years.[5]

It was rediscovered in 2011 by an archivist, according to the director of the Central Arkansas Library System. The archivist found it in a box of Clinton's gubernatorial materials in the basement of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock, which is a joint operation with the Central Arkansas Library System.[3] The plastic ball container with the moon rock encased within it was originally attached to the wooden plague, but was broken off when it was found lying at the bottom of the box of Clinton's gubernatorial materials. (It has since been reattached.) [3]

How the Arkansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display with the "goodwill moon rock" got in a box of gubernatorial materials belonging to Clinton is unclear. The director of the Central Arkansas Library System speculates that when Clinton became governor in 1978, the previous governor who had received the "goodwill moon rock" plaque display from President Nixon left it in the office in Clinton's care. When Clinton lost re-election in 1980, everything was packed up in 2,000 boxes and stored away, including the Arkansas Apollo 17 lunar sample display. Some 30 years later when an archivist was prowling through these boxes he stumbled across the display and immediately recognized what it was. He turned it over to his director, who in turn turned it over to the appropriate authorities for display at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.[6][7]

According to moon rocks researcher Robert Pearlman, the Arkansas Apollo 11 lunar sample display is also housed at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 11 goodwill lunar sample displays?". collectspace.com. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 17 goodwill moon rocks?". collectspace.com. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Wire, Sarah D. (September 22, 2011). Front. "State’s ’76 moon rock turns up / It, plaque found in basement box". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. p. 1. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Greg (September 22, 2011). "Long-Lost Moon Rock Turns Up In Clinton Papers". NBC. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ Praetorius, Dean (September 22, 2011, updated November 22, 2011). "Lost Moon Rock Found In Bill Clinton's Arkansas Gubernatorial Papers". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ Parker, Suzi (September 22, 2011). "Arkansas' lost moon rock found in Clinton's files". Little Rock, Arkansas: Reuters. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ Martin, Karen (January 18, 2011). "Museum of Discovery Shows Off Moon Rocks". Little Rock, Arkansas: InArkansas.com. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 

External links[edit]