News: Minnesota National Guard adds piece to NASA puzzle
Story by Sgt. John Angelo
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The moon is 238,855 miles from Earth, well most of it. A small part of it can now be found at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Minn., thanks to the Minnesota National Guard. The Minnesota State Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Richard Nash transferred possession of a wooden podium with moon rocks and a small Minnesota flag, that flew to the moon in 1969, encased in acrylic to Pat Gaarder, Minnesota Historical Society deputy director, Nov. 28.
The moon rocks are one of 185 that were gifted to the states from then President Richard M. Nixon. The location of the majority of these “goodwill moon rocks” is still a mystery. But thanks to a historian in the Minnesota National Guard, NASA is .05 grams closer to full accountability of the 47.5 lbs that where brought back from the Apollo 11 mission.
"The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found amongst military artifacts in a storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul," said Army Maj. Blane R. Iffert, former state historian for the Minnesota National Guard.
"When I searched the Internet to find additional information about the moon rocks, I knew we had to find a better means to display this artifact," said Iffert. "It is stated on some websites that approximately 180 are currently unaccounted for of the 270 moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions. We've just lowered that number by one."
The transfer took place at STARBASE (Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration), an academic program in science, math, technology and engineering at the Minnesota Air Guard base at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
A group of students from Jefferson Elementary, Maternity of Mary St. Andrew and Saint Rose of Lima elementary schools from the Minneapolis and St. Paul area where in attendance and had a once in a lifetime chance to look at and touch the plaque.
“It was really exciting to be able to see the moon rocks,” said Saint Rose of Lima student Katie Roerich. “ I didn’t think they would be that small. I thought that they would be bigger.”
"These students will one day be the scientists, engineers and astronauts to first set foot on Mars," said Kim Van Wie, executive director of STARBASE Minnesota. "We're excited they were able to see, first hand, evidence of this historic Apollo mission to the moon and how that has paved the way for future exploration that they could eventually be a part of."
One of the original purposes of designing and gifting the plaques by President Nixon was to inspire youth to keep excited about space exploration. Now that it has been gifted to the Minnesota History Center, it will join the 1972 Minnesota “goodwill moon rock” plaque and it will do just that.
"We are honored to have this in our collection to preserve for future generations," said Gaarder. "Space exploration is an important part of our shared history. It is also exciting to think that our collection includes artifacts from across the globe and now with these moon rocks, the galaxy."