Salvadoran Museum Exhibits Moon Rock Brought Back by Apollo XVII

By Dialogo
July 28, 2009

San Salvador, July 26 (EFE).- Starting today, the Museum of Anthropology of El Salvador is exhibiting a fragment of moon rock brought back by the crew of Apollo XVII, the last lunar mission carried out by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in December 1972. The exhibition, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of man’s arrival on the moon in this Central American country, is accompanied by posters and scale models that tell the story of the Apollo missions. The director of the Museum, Gregorio Bello-Suazo, told EFE that the fragment is “a jewel” that will serve as a message, especially for children and young people, that “it’s possible to reach big objectives” in daily life. The fragment, which was donated to the country by former U.S. president Richard Nixon in March 1973, was part of the rock called “Sample 70017” that the president distributed among several countries and all the U.S. states, according to a document from the United States embassy in San Salvador. Jorge Colorado, a member of the Salvadoran Astronomy Association (ASTRO), said in a private opening ceremony on Saturday that the fragment is the “most ancient” material of the universe accessible to Salvadorans, given that it is believed to have been formed more than 3.6 billion years ago. “It is much older than the ancient rocks that started to form Central America,” Colorado said, while highlighting the fact that the fragment, which is no more than three centimeters in size, is “a geological summary of the whole moon.” The small fragment is exhibited in a crystal sphere attached to a plaque, which also holds a Salvadoran flag that traveled to the satellite on board Apollo XVII, along with flags from other countries. The private opening ceremony was attended by retired NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, who gave a summary of his activities in various missions to outer space. The astronaut, who was born in Arkansas (U.S.) in 1961, presented a video of a space walk that he took outside the international space station in 2007 and in which he made repairs to a solar panel. The fragment of moon rock will remain on exhibit for a month, and according to Bello-Suazo, the possibility of setting up a gallery to make the exhibition on the Apollo missions permanent is under consideration.