Nebraska lunar sample displays

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

Nebraska Apollo 11 lunar sample display
Nebraska Apollo 17 lunar sample display


Apollo 11[edit]

The Nebraska Apollo 11 lunar sample display commemorative podium-style plaque consists of four "moon rock" rice-grain size particle specimens that were collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 and a small Nebraska state flag that went to the moon and back.[1] The Apollo 11 Nebraska goodwill moon rocks commemorative podium plaque lunar display was available for viewing in 1969 to Nebraskans at the Governor's Mansion from December 9 through December 19 (except December 16 and 17) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Governor Tiemann's wife announced.[3]

The 4 "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 Nebraska state flag that had been to the moon and back that lies directly below the "goodwill moon rocks". The small podium plaque display was given to the people of the state of Nebraska as a gift by President Nixon. Similar tiny "moon rocks" 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]

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


Nebraska governor's mansion

Shortly after the goodwill moon rock displays were given to the state of Nebraska in the 1970s by President Nixon, they were stored at the Nebraska governor's mansion and completely forgotten about.[1][2] Nobody knew where the plaque displays were. They were rediscovered in 1997 when Dianne Nelson, wife of then-governor of Nebraska Ben Nelson, got involved in a project to renovate the governor's mansion to its original condition.[4] Dianne found the Nebraska Apollo displays while the mansion was undergoing renovations and didn't know exactly what they were. As far as she was concerned, they were just wooden displays with labels on them about Apollo missions which had been securely put away and forgotten about. The 2012 curator of the Ralph Mueller Planetarium, who has been at the Planetarium for over 40 years,[5] confirmed that the specimens were misplaced and nobody knew where they were for many years. When Dianne came across the Apollo moon rock displays in the process of renovation, she gave them to the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Historical Society, whose mission is to "educate people about Nebraska's past through historic artifacts and historic places",[6] decided that the "moon rocks" should be displayed in a natural history setting. The Society then gave the Apollo displays to the Ralph Mueller Planetarium of the University of Nebraska State Museum, whose mission is outer space education through planetarium teaching.[5] The curator of the Planetarium said they had remodeled an old exhibit that is just outside the Planetarium lobby to present the Apollo lunar displays to the public.[A]


  1. ^ E-mail from the Mueller Planetarium dated September 16, 2012: Douglas: I'll take you a picture or two. It's been years since we made the display. Don't think there was ever any news release. I can tell you the story. When the rocks were presented to Nebraska, they were in the governor's mansion. Got misplaced and nobody knew where they were for years. Dianne Nelson (back when her husband was governor) was involved in a project to renovate the mansion which really needed cleaning and repair. She found the rocks. First gave them to the Nebr. Historical Society, but told me where they were and Historical Society said they should be displayed in a natural history setting. So they gave them to us. There was an old display outside the planetarium that was outdated and we wanted to replace. So the Museum exhibit folks built the current display. As mentioned, I'll get you some photos. It is just outside of the planetarium lobby. Clear DARK Skies - Jack Dunn - Mueller Planetarium


  1. ^ a b c d Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 11 goodwill lunar sample displays?". Retrieved November 2, 2012.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "moon_rocks_Apollo_11" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b c Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 17 goodwill lunar sample displays". Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Moon rock viewing set for Nebraskans". Lincoln Evening Journal. December 5, 1969. p. 1. 
  4. ^ "About the Governor's Residence". State of Nebraska. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Mueller Planetarium Celebrates 50 Years of Discovering the Universe". Lincoln, Nebraska: Mueller Planetarium, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. 1957–2008. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Museum/Historic Sites Division". Nebraska State Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 

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