NASA lends 3.9-billion-year-old moon rock to the Biden White House

Astronauts chipped the 3.9-billion-year-old rock off of a lunar boulder back in 1972.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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The moon rock has the unromantic name of "Lunar Sample 76015,143."


There's a new decoration in President Joe Biden's Oval Office. Although really, it's a very old decoration. At the request of the new administration, NASA loaned out a moon rock from its Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The moon rock went on display in the Oval Office on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

The loan is "in symbolic recognition of earlier generations' ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America's current Moon to Mars exploration approach," according to NASA's website. The moon rock is in a protective case with an attached plaque explaining its history.

The moon rock came from the nation's last manned mission to the moon, 1972's Apollo 17. 

"Astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last humans to set foot on the Moon, chipped this sample from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) from the Lunar Module," NASA notes on its site.

It weighs 332 grams (less than a pound), but the space agency says the moon rock is 3.9 billion years old and was formed during the "last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon, the Imbrium Impact Basin," which measures about 711 miles in diameter (1,145 km).

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