The Moon revealed

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


The Air Force C-141 Starlifter carrying NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine and the first rock box landed at Ellington Air Force Base on Friday, 25 July 1969. Awaiting it were Samuel C. Phillips, the Apollo Program Director, Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, and George M. Low, Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office in Houston. Gilruth and Low posed for photographs holding the box, before taking it to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory on the campus of the Manned Spacecraft Center. The second box arrived later that day. The next day, a member of the 50-strong Preliminary Examination Team used a vacuum chamber with a window and rubberised ‘arms’ to raise the lid of the first box, and found the interior so coated with black dust as to make it impractical to say anything definitive about the contents! When the boxes were emptied, there was found to be 48 pounds of lunar material in the form of 20 individual rocks and a pile of fragments and grains. One by one, the rocks were cleaned for inspection. At a press conference on 28 July, Persa R. Bell, Director of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, opined that the rocks had been “beautifully selected”. Elbert King, the curator, announced that the first rock to be examined under a microscope appeared to be a granular igneous rock. Gene Shoemaker of the US Geological Survey suggested that it represented a lava flow. But this was only a first impression. Once the material had been catalogued, small samples were issued to 150 principal investigators who had spent years developing the means to subject such material to almost every possible kind of analysis.


Program Director Geological Survey Vacuum Chamber Principal Investigator Lava Flow 
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© Praxis Publishing Ltd. 2007

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