The day President Joe Biden was sworn into office, White House personnel were hard at work redecorating the Oval Office to the new occupant’s preferences. Among many changes, Biden requested a Moon rock on loan from NASA be placed in his office to honour the country’s past and show support for its future ambitions.
The Moon rock, Lunar Sample 76015,143, is located on the bottle shelf to the right of the Resolute desk. It is displayed in a three-sided glass case and features an inscription describing how and where the sample was collected.
According to a NASA statement, the Moon rock is a symbolic recognition of the ambitions and accomplishments of the past while also serving as a display of support for the country’s current aspirations to return to the Moon.
The 332-gram Moon rock was originally part of a 2.8-kilogram sample collected by NASA astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan during Apollo 17, the last crewed mission to the Moon. The rock was chipped from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley three kilometers from where the Lunar Module touched down. It is believed to have been formed during the last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon 3.9 billion years ago.
Once returned to Earth, the original 2.8-kilogram sample was split into 24 different pieces, the largest of which was 616 grams and the smallest just 0.1 grams. The different pieces were split up for scientific analysis and/or public display purposes.
Prior to finding its way into President Biden’s Oval office, the Lunar Sample 76015,143 was displayed in the Berlin Museum of Transport and Technology in Berlin, Germany where it had been since January 1993.