New Mexico lunar sample displays
The New Mexico 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 New Mexico by United States President Richard Nixon as goodwill gifts.
The New Mexico Apollo 11 lunar sample display commemorative podium style plaque consists of four rice-size moon rock particle specimens that were collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 and a small New Mexico state flag that was taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11.
The four moon rocks weigh about 0.05 grams (0.0018 oz) 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 podium plaque display also has mounted on it a small New Mexico state flag that had been to the moon and back that lies directly below the moon rocks. The small podium plaque display was given to the people of the state of New Mexico as a gift by President Richard Nixon. Similar tiny moon rocks were also distributed to the other 49 states.
The New Mexico Apollo 17 lunar sample display commemorative style plaque, measuring 10 by 14 inches (250 mm × 360 mm), consists of one moon rock particle specimen that was cut from lunar basalt 70017 and a New Mexico 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 (0.035 oz). The specimen was encased in a plastic ball and mounted on the wooden plaque along with the New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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.
The New Mexico Apollo 11 lunar sample display was presented by President Richard Nixon to then-Republican Governor David F. Cargo. When the new Democratic Governor of New Mexico Bruce King came into office on January 1, 1971, there was a clash between him and Cargo over the ownership of the New Mexico Apollo 11 goodwill moon rocks plaque display. Cargo argued that since the plaque was presented to him, it was his to take home when he left office on December 31, 1970. King felt the Apollo 11 commemorative plaque display belonged to the people of the state of New Mexico and should be housed in the Museum of New Mexico. Cargo argued that since the display with the moon rocks was given to him and not King, it was his right to give it to a museum if he wanted or not give it to them if he didn't want to.
The curator of the Museum of New Mexico, Dr. George Ewing, checked the White House records, which showed that the display belonged to the people of New Mexico. Indeed, the label affixed to the New Mexico Apollo 11 goodwill moon rocks display reads:
Cargo said he had been thinking about giving the New Mexico Apollo 11 lunar sample plaque display with the "moon rocks" to the Museum of New Mexico anyway. Cargo was hoping that his astronaunt friend James McDivitt would be present at the presentation of the New Mexico Apollo 11 plaque display, but McDevitt couldn't make it. Ultimately the New Mexico Apollo 11 goodwill moon rocks display was presented to the Museum of New Mexico by Cargo in a formal ceremony attended by 50 people on November 9, 1971. Cargo had invited everyone in New Mexico to the ceremony presentation, except Governor King.
While other goodwill moon rocks commemorative displays were reported lost or missing by many recipient states, both the New Mexico Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 goodwill moon rocks commemorative plaque displays are exhibited in the state. According to moon rocks researcher Robert Pearlman, the New Mexico Apollo 11 lunar sample display is exhibited at the Palace of the Governors, a division of the Museum of New Mexico. The New Mexico Apollo 17 goodwill moon rocks display is at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in Roswell, New Mexico.
- Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 11 goodwill lunar sample displays?". collectspace.com. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- Pearlman, Robert (1999–2012). "Where today are the Apollo 17 goodwill lunar sample displays". collectspace.com. Retrieved November 2, 2012.
- "Disputed Moon Rocks Are Given to Museum". The New York Times. February 11, 1971.
- "Ex-Governor Yields on Moon Rocks". The Washington Post. February 10, 1971.
- "New Mexico Moon Rocks Stir Dispute". The Washington Post. February 7, 1971.
- "Lunar Rocks Presented To N.M. Museum". Indiana Evening Gazette. February 11, 1971.
- "NM Museum to get 'heated' moon rocks". The New Mexican. February 8, 1971. p. Front.
- "Apollo 11 Moon Rock Now Rests In Museum". Panama City News Herald. February 11, 1971. p. 21.
- "King leaves bird to his successor". The New Mexican. December 26, 1971. p. 66.
- Earth magazine, March 2011, pp. 42-51
- Kloc, Joe (February 19, 2012). The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks. The Atavist/Amazon Digital Services, Inc. p. 47. ASIN B007BGZNZ8.
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