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Lunar samples on display at Missouri State Museum

Lunar samples on display at Missouri State Museum

July 20th, 2019 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News
Julie Smith/News Tribune Alex Niethe, 6 1/2, looks at the fragments of moon rock encased in a display in the Capitol Museum Thursday afternoon. Niethe, who's from St. Louis, was visiting for the day before going to visit family elsewhere. The small Missouri flag and fragments were presented to the state from President Richard Nixon.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the Missouri State Museum is displaying the lunar samples from the 1969 mission that were gifted to the state.

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The lunar samples will be on display until Aug. 1 in the museum's History Hall, located on the first floor of the Missouri Capitol.

"The moon rocks are actually more like lunar soil samples," Missouri State Museum Director Tiffany Patterson said.

Along with the encapsulated moon samples is a small state flag on the display, both of which are attached to a wooden plaque/stand.

"Very similar plaques were given to every state and several other countries by then-President Richard Nixon to honor the Apollo 11 fight," Patterson said. "Approximately 250 plaques were made and distributed. The small flags mounted to (the plaque) had gone on the mission with the Apollo 11 astronauts and were carried in the lunar landing module to the moon's surface."

The lunar samples were accepted by Missouri first lady Betty Hearnes on July 17, 1970, Patterson said. After a brief presentation, the samples went directly into a "Men on the Moon" exhibit in the museum. The samples and flag have been part of the museum's collection since that date.

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Patterson said it is not uncommon for similar gifts to the state to be given to the Missouri State Museum for conservation and exhibition.

The presentation of the lunar samples was part of a larger celebration of the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. This included having the command module, Columbia, on display as it toured all state capitols along with the mission crew.

"We also have samples from the Apollo 17 mission, which was the last voyage to the moon," Patterson said. "They aren't on display right now, but we do take them out from time to time. The samples from Apollo 11 and 17 were on display during the lunar eclipse events two years ago.

The museum is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week, and admission is free. All visitors to the Capitol and museum are subject to security screening.

For more information, call 573-751-4127.