Spain lunar sample displays

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The Spain lunar sample displays are two commemorative plaques consisting of tiny fragments of moon specimens brought back with the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 lunar missions. These plaques were given to the people of Spain by United States President Richard Nixon as goodwill gifts.[1][2]


Apollo 11[edit]

The Spain Apollo 11 lunar sample display commemorative podium style 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 flag. The 4 "moon rocks" weigh about 0.05 grams in total. They are encased in a clear plastic ball the size of a coin that is mounted to a wooden board approximately one foot square on a small podium pedestal display. The plaque display also has mounted on it a small Spanish flag that had been taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11. The plaque display was given to the people of Spain as a gift by United States President Richard Nixon. Similar lunar sample displays were also distributed to all the states of the United States and all the countries of the world.[1]

Apollo 17[edit]

Message on Apollo 17 plaque

The Spain 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. This basalt 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 Spanish country flag which had been taken to the moon and back by the crew of Apollo 17. The plaques were then distributed in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to different countries of the world and the States of the United States as a goodwill gesture.[2]


There is evidence that the Spanish administration of the 1970s kept the Apollo 11 commemorative plaque display and the "moon rocks" associated with them as the personal belongings of General Francisco Franco. After Franco's death in 1975 the Apollo 11 "moon rocks" from his estate were offered to a buyer in Switzerland. Franco's family denies any knowledge of this.[3]

El Pardo Palace

El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, reported in July 20, 2009 that Franco's grandson, Francisco Franco Martinez Bordiú, claimed the Spanish Apollo 11 "goodwill moon rocks" given to his grandfather in 1973 by the Nixon administration were not gifted to the Spanish people but to his grandfather personally. The Apollo 11 "goodwill moon rocks" display was kept at the El Pardo Palace in the office of General Francisco Franco and were never given to a museum during Franco’s administration. After Franco's death in 1975 the Spanish Apollo 11 display with the 4 rice-size "goodwill moon rocks" were transferred to the home of Carmen Polo, Franco's wife, and inherited by her only child Carmen Franco y Polo, Bordiú's mother.[4]

Bordiú denies that his father, Christopher Martinez Bordiú (Marquis of Villaverde), tried to sell off the Spanish Apollo 11 display in London at one time after his wife had inherited it. This information of a possible sale in London was given to the El Mundo publisher by Luis Ruiz de Gopegui, a past director of NASA stations in Spain. Bordiú does admit that in the early 90s, a friend of the family "made inquiries" to consider selling the space artifact at Sotheby's or another auction house. Bordiu denies that they sold it at an auction house or to a private buyer. He says that his mother, who had inherited the Apollo 11 display, lost it. He explained that his mother has many houses with many items in each and it could have been lost in a remodeling of one of these houses or in the transfer of items from one house to another.[4] According to moon rocks researcher Robert Pearlman, the whereabouts of the Spanish Apollo 11 lunar sample display wooden commemorative plaque is unknown.[1]

Flag of Spain, 1945–1977

Henry Kissinger, then-Secretary of State during the Nixon administration, gave the Apollo 17 display with the "goodwill moon rock" to Franco's successor, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, in the 1970s. Blanco was killed by the ETA and the Apollo 17 display remained in the possession of the family – first at the home of his widow and then later with his firstborn child. Blanco's son ultimately gifted the Apollo 17 display with the 1 gram "goodwill moon rock" to the Naval Museum in Madrid in 2007. The commemorative plaque is on display complete with its pre-constitutional Spanish flag that flew with the Apollo 17 mission to the moon and back.[4]

Researcher Jesús Martínez Frías, a renowned expert in meteorites of Spain as a researcher for the Astrobiology Center (CAB) in Madrid, was consulted by El Mundo. He argued that the "moon rocks" are very precious items and should only be in museums and research centers. He believes there should be an international law to control and restrict these items so that they would not show up in the black market later for astronomical prices.[4][5][6][7]


  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. ^ Earth magazine, March 2011, p. 51
  4. ^ a b c d Jáuregui, Pablo (July 20, 2009). "El nieto de Franco: 'Mi madre perdió la piedra lunar que le regalaron a mi abuelo'" [Franco's grandson: 'My mother lost the moonstone that was given to her by my grandfather']. El Mundo (in Spanish) (Madrid). Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ Jáuregui, Pablo (July 20, 2009). "El hijo de Carrero Blanco donó otra roca al Museo Naval" [Carrero Blanco's son donated another rock to Naval Museum]. El Mundo (in Spanish) (Madrid). Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ Jáuregui, Pablo (July 20, 2009). "El misterio de la roca lunar que EEUU regaló a España" [The mystery of the moon rock that the U.S. gave to Spain]. El Mundo (in Spanish) (Madrid). Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Apollo moon rocks lost in space? No, lost on Earth". Madrid: September 13, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 

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