Colorado lunar sample displays

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Flag of Colorado

The Colorado 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 Colorado by United States President Richard Nixon as goodwill gifts.[1][2][3]


Apollo 11[edit]

Plaques on the California Apollo 11 lunar sample display, similar to the display in Colorado

The Colorado Apollo 11 lunar sample display commemorative plaque 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 Colorado state flag that was taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11.[1]

The 4 "moon rocks" weigh about 0.05 grams total and are encased in a clear plastic button the size of a coin which is mounted to a wooden board approximately one foot square on a small podium pedestal display. The small wooden commemorative podium plaque display also has mounted on it a small Colorado state flag that had taken been 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 Colorado 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]

Apollo 17[edit]

Message on Apollo 17 plaque

The Colorado Apollo 17 lunar sample display commemorative style plaque (10 by 14 inches) consists of one "moon rock" particle specimen that was cut from lunar basalt 70017 and a Colorado 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 specimen was encased in a plastic ball and mounted on the wooden plaque along with the Colorado 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 Colorado 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]


Apollo 17 lunar plaque display

The Colorado Apollo 11 lunar samples plaque was first displayed in a low-security location with easy public access on the first floor of the Colorado State Capitol building beginning around 1992.[4] By 2010 the Colorado Apollo 11 "goodwill moon rocks" had been moved to a locked third-floor display case at the Capitol. However, in that year, the Capitol Building Advisory Committee decided to move it to an unknown location until it could come up with plans for a permanent secure location. This action was prompted by news reports that Apollo 11 "goodwill moon rocks" from the first manned moon landing may be worth as much as $5 million.[4]

The $5 million price tag reported for either set of Apollo "moon rocks" is a black market valuation that the state government does not put much trust on. But whatever "high valuation" it may have is a tempting target for thieves.[4]

The Colorado Apollo 17 lunar sample display was accepted by then-Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof from NASA astronaut Jack Lousma on January 9, 1974. After that, it was considered lost until it was located in June 2010 in Vanderhoof's Grand Junction home.[5] Vanderhoof, who left office in 1975, said "he didn't know what to do with the display once he left office so he simply decided to take it with him".[3] The plaque display with the Apollo 17 "moon rock" has since been moved to the Colorado School of Mines,[5] where it is currently on display in the Geology Museum.[4][6][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 11 goodwill lunar sample displays?". Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 17 goodwill lunar sample displays". Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "7NEWS Tracks Down State's Missing Moon Rock/Rock, Plaque Discovered At Former Colo. Governor's Home". KMGH-TV. June 1, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Citing Security, Colo. Removes Apollo 11 Moon Rocks From Display". State Bill Colorado. July 14, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Kendall, Trisha (January 1, 2011). "Moon Rock Lands at Mines". Mines. Golden, Colorado: Colorado School of Mines. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ Burkhardt, Dylan (August 26, 2010). "Bill Ritter announces new home for moon rock: Colorado School of Mines' Museum of Geology". Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ Earth magazine, March 2011, pp. 42-51
  8. ^ "Gov. Ritter, Mines unveil new home for moon rock Gov. Ritter, Mines unveil new home for moon rock". Golden, Colorado: Colorado School of Mines. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 

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