Moon Rock

Apollo 17 lunar sample presented to Texas

Print Page

At the end of the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in December 1972, President Richard Nixon began the distribution of rock fragments from lunar sample number 70017, also known as the “Goodwill rock,” to 135 foreign countries, the 50 U.S. states, and all U.S. provinces. Each rock, encased in acrylic, was mounted to a plaque with the recipient’s flag that was flown on the mission.

Operating from 1961 until 1972, the Apollo Program was dedicated to landing humans on the Moon, but its achievements went well beyond. Of the seven manned lunar missions, all but Apollo 13 achieved the goal of landing men on the Moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first mission with a crew to land on the Moon, and Neil Armstrong took his famous first steps on the lunar surface. The six missions that completed the journey to the Moon’s surface and back returned a wealth of scientific data and over 800 pounds of lunar rock and soil samples.

Texas received two lunar samples, one from Apollo 11 and one from Apollo 17. The Apollo 11 sample is in the collections of the Museum of Texas Tech University. The lunar fragment on display at the Bullock Museum comes from Apollo 17, which included commander Eugene A. Cernan, command module pilot Ronald E. Evans, and lunar module pilot Harrison H. Schmitt. Theirs was the first night launch of a U.S. spaceflight and the final lunar landing mission of the Apollo program. It remains the most recent manned Moon landing and set several records, including longest manned lunar landing flight, largest lunar sample return, and longest time in lunar orbit.

Lunar rock sample number 70017 was taken from the Taurus Littrow Valley of the Moon. Commander Cernan described the rock in a transmission to NASA as being “composed of many fragments of all sizes and shapes — and even colors — that have grown together to become a cohesive rock.” He went on to say that pieces of the rock would be given to museums around the world.

This original film clip of Apollo 17 on the moon shows Gene Cernan describing and showing the “Goodwill rock.”

Browse All Stories

Read stories from people across Texas

Browse All Stories