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A piece of “goodwill rock”-People and the Environment Blog


Tonight, fragments of the lunar surface collected by the National Museum will appear in Stargazing live Series, hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Julia Zemiro. Saiddin Springs Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, broadcast on ABC, the moon rock fragments will provide stories about the moon, NASA astronauts and international politics, as leading scientists and celebrities solve the most important issues in astronomy Interesting questions and trying to inspire Australians to explore our solar system. It will be on display in the museum hall next week, with the opportunity to see a small piece of the moon, capturing a small moment in history.

This Lunar specimen It was a larger piece of basalt fragment collected during the Apollo 17 mission, which was the eleventh and final manned mission of the US Apollo space program. Below the specimen is a small Australian flag, which was carried with you during the Apollo 17 moon landing and return mission.

Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmidt spent 75 hours on the lunar surface at the Taurus-Littrow landing site and collected 110.4 kilograms of lunar samples. The original rock specimen “Basalt Sample 70017”, later called “Benevolent Rock”, is a composite of fragments exploded from moon craters by meteor impacts and volcanic activity. It is believed to be billions of years old. .

Geologist Schmidt was the first and only scientist to walk on the moon. He organized lunar science training for Apollo astronauts and joined the Scientist-Astronaut Program in 1965 and was designated as a mission scientist to support the Apollo 11 mission. [1]

Schmidt collected lunar rake samples at station 1 during the first spacewalk of the mission at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. This photo was taken by Cernan.NASA

A rock composed of many fragments

Cernan and Schmidt selected the special geological properties of “Sample 70017” from all the materials they collected, and shared its information with NASA Mission Control Center and the people on Earth before they left the moon on December 14:

Eugene Cernan: Houston, before we close [moonwalk], We learned that today young people in Houston have been effectively visiting our country, and young people from all over the world are visiting our country. They had the opportunity to watch the launch of Apollo 17; they hope to have the opportunity to meet some young people in our country. First of all, we want to say, welcome, we hope you have a good time.

Secondly, I think that when we think of Apollo, one of the most important things we can think of may be that it opens up for us—“for us” is the world—the challenges of the future. The door has been opened, but the hope for the future lies in young people, not only in the United States, but young people all over the world are studying, living and cooperating. In order to remind everyone in so many countries around the world that this is the goal that all of us are striving for for the future, Jack picked up a very important rock, which is the typical rock we have in the Taurus Valley-Litro .

It is a piece of rock composed of many fragments, of different sizes and shapes, may come from various parts of the moon, and may have a history of billions of years. But fragments of various sizes and shapes—even colors—have grown together into a cohesive rock, longer lasting than the essence of space, living together in a very coherent and very peaceful way. When we return this rock or some other similar rocks to Houston, we want to share part of this rock with many countries in the world. We hope that this can become a symbol of our feelings. What is the feeling of the Apollo project is also a symbol of humanity: we can live in peace and harmony in the future.

Harrison “Jack” Schmidt: Part of [this] Rock music will be sent to representative institutions or museums in every country represented by the young people in Houston today. We hope that they-rock music and the students themselves-can bring our best wishes, not only for the coming of the new year , But also for themselves, their country, and all mankind in the future.

Working on the moon

After returning to Earth, Cernan and Schmidt reflected on the historical significance of their work and the materials they collected:

Cernan: Apollo 17 is scientifically based on all other missions. We have a lunar rover, and we can cover more ground than most other missions. We stayed there for a while. We went to a unique and more challenging area in the mountains to learn about the history and origin of the moon itself.

Schmidt: It is the site that has changed the most among all Apollo sites. It is specially selected. We have three dimensions to observe and sample the mountains. You have Mare basalt on the floor and high ground on the mountain wall. We also have this obvious young volcanic material. We have seen it in the photos, but it is not very obvious, but in the end we found the orange soil form in Shorty crater. We found the oldest rock sampled on the moon at the bottom of the South Block.

In completing their work, Cernan and Schmidt set a new record for the time spent on the surface of the moon and the amount of material collected:

Cernan: The lunar rover is a great asset. The one thing we know that will cause us problems is moon dust, soil, very good. Almost the same as graphite. Then you throw it away. When you drive the rover, it will spit out like a rooster tail… We look like coal miners. You have seen my pictures. I have black moon dust everywhere.

Schmidt: I found it [scoop] versatile. I can use it to pick up rocks-small rocks-but I can also use it to dig trenches and do all kinds of other things. So, the spoon is very good for me. It gave me something to rely on, to look down… [As for the tongs] – The spring will close them on the sample, you can lift them; the spoon for taking the soil sample. They are just very simple geological tools. They have been in operation for hundreds of years and may continue to operate for hundreds of years in the future. However, it still requires a lot of manual operation.

When he left the moon, Cernan used these words as his signature: “The challenges of the United States today shape the destiny of mankind tomorrow. When we leave the moon and Taurus-Littrow, we will leave like this, God is willing, we will Come back with the peace and hope of all mankind.” This photo shows the Apollo 17 command and service module preparing to rendezvous with the lunar module.NASA

Return to earth

In 1973, US President Richard Nixon ordered the distribution of fragments from “Sample 70017” to 135 foreign heads of state. This action was called the “Stone of Goodwill.” The speech delivered to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam affirmed Australia’s contribution to the Apollo program. Its three National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tracking stations are located in the Australian Capital Territory and maintain communications with spacecraft.

A sample of a letter dated March 21, 1973, signed by President Nixon:

The American Apollo Moon Landing Program was successfully concluded. Humans on Earth have reached the first milestone in space. But when we reach out to the stars, we know that we are also standing on the shoulders of many people in many countries on our own planet. In the deepest sense, our exploration of the moon is indeed an international effort.

It is for this reason that, on behalf of the American people, I present this flag brought to the moon to the United States. [Nation], And the moon fragments obtained during the last lunar mission of the Apollo program.

If people from many countries can act together to realize the dream of mankind in space, then of course we can act together to realize the dream of mankind’s peace on earth. It is in this spirit that the United States of America landed on the moon, and it is in this spirit that we look forward to sharing what we have done and learned with all mankind. [2]

Between 1969 and 1972, six Apollo missions brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rock, core samples, pebbles, sand, and dust from the lunar surface. Six spaceflights returned 2,200 individual samples from six different exploration locations on the moon. [3]

The rocks and plaques were transferred from the Ministry of Science and Environment to the National Museum in 1980.

The collection of the National Museum also includes from Aurora Valley Tracking Station, Equipment used by the Australian Remote Sensing Centre, and propeller fragments used on aircraft Southern Cross, Australian astronaut Andy Thomas entered space on the STS-102 Discovery (March 8-21, 2001). This is the eighth space shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station.

A fragment of this “stone of goodwill” will be exhibited at the National Museum next week Stargazing live. Join the conversation #StargazingABC


[1] Biographical details of the scientist astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmidt And read further Apollo 17 mission.

[2] The content of the letter is Reprint From the National Archives.

[3] NASA Lunar Rock Research

Quotations from oral history Eugene Cernan with Harrison Schmidt, NASA.


Featured image: December 11, 1972-Astronaut Eugene Cernan performed the lunar rover early in the first Apollo 17 exit event (EVA-1) at the Taurus-Litro landing site A short check. This view of the “disassembled” rover is before loading. This photo was taken by Harrison Schmidt. The mountain in the background on the right is the eastern end of the South Block.NASA



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