Reach for the Moon in Canberra this July

01 July 2019

Joint media release between Geoscience Australia, the National Museum of Australia, Questacon, CSIRO and the Australian National University.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Canberra locals and visitors can embark on a voyage of discovery on a special Moon Rock Trail from Friday, 5 July 2019.

Visitors on the Moon Rock Trail will be able to see, touch and walk on the Moon at five locations in the Australian Capital Territory: Geoscience Australia, the National Museum of Australia, Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre, CSIRO-managed Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, and the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

The trail includes the only piece of the Moon in the Southern Hemisphere that can be actually touched, the largest piece of Apollo 11 returned Moon rock in the Southern Hemisphere, Australian flags flown to the surface of the Moon, fragments of lunar rock gifted to Australia for our important role in the Apollo missions, and the chance to walk across the face of the Moon on one of Canberra's highest peaks.

Geoscience Australia’s Curator Steve Petkovski said the lunar touchstone (Sample 70215) at Geoscience Australia is on long-term loan from NASA and is one of only 11 in the world.

“We’re really privileged to be the only place in the Southern Hemisphere where visitors can now touch a Moon rock that was specially brought back from an Apollo mission, rather than a piece that fell to Earth as a meteorite,” Mr Petkovski said.

“The touchstone is a sample of a mare basalt Moon rock collected from the last Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and is now available for the public to touch at our new display.”

The National Museum of Australia will have a fragment of a rock also brought back from the Apollo 17 Moon mission on display as part of its Tracking Apollo: 50 years since the Moon landing exhibit.

The Apollo 17 mission was the final trip of the American Apollo space program during which ‘sample 70017’, a composite rock considered to be billions of years old, was collected.

‘Sample 70017’, which weighed around 3 kg, became known as the ‘goodwill rock’ after American President Richard Nixon ordered the distribution of its fragments to 135 foreign heads of state, with a message of world peace in 1973.
Robert Bunzli, the Museum’s digital programs coordinator, said the gift of the ‘goodwill rock’ recognised Australia’s contribution to the Apollo program, which included its three ACT based NASA tracking stations, which maintained communications with spacecraft.

“We are thrilled that this iconic item will be part of the Moon Rock Trail and that visitors to the Museum will have the chance to view a part of our nation’s role in space exploration,” Mr Bunzli said.

Questacon Exhibition Content Manager Anita Beck said the display in Questacon’s foyer has some special elements thanks to a loan from the National Archives of Australia.

“In addition to fragments of Moon rock brought back from the Apollo 11 mission, Questacon is thrilled to be displaying an Australian flag that the NASA crew took with them on their historic 1.5 million kilometre journey,” Ms Beck said.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC)’s Director Dr Ed Kruzins said the complex, which is managed by CSIRO on NASA’s behalf, will be featuring their lunar sample (10072,80), which at 147.25 grams is the largest Moon rock on public display in Australia.

“At 3.8 billion years old, this rock has been on a long journey from the Moon to the Earth. It was gifted to Australia to symbolise the close links that we have in space exploration with the United States and between CSIRO and NASA,” Dr Ed Kruzins said.

Dr Brad Tucker from the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said people could follow in the footsteps of other astronauts at the Mt Stromlo Observatory with the ANU Moon sculpture.

“One of the hidden gems of the ANU Mt Stromlo Observatory is our Moon sculpture, which recreates the side of our nearest neighbour in the solar system,” Dr Brad Tucker said.

“Our Moon sculpture allows you to not only touch a piece of the Moon but to walk on it – experiencing first-hand the wonders of space and what it is like to take one small step, and one giant leap.”

The Moon Rock Trail locations are available on Google Maps: bit.ly/MoonTrail

The Australian National University is also organising a bus on Thursday 18 July to tour around these Moon Rock Trail destinations. Register your interest and pay here: www.anu.edu.au/events/space-bus-tour

This initiative forms part of Canberra’s larger program of events, joining worldwide festivities celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission. To see what else is happening, visit the CSIRO events page: https://apollo11.csiro.au/events/

Giant moon installation at Questacon

(From left) Geoscience Australia's Steve Petkovski, National Museum of Australia's Robert Bunzli, Questacon's Stephanie Hodge and CSIRO’s Dr Ed Kruzins, under the giant moon installation at Questacon. Photo: National Museum of Australia, Jason McCarthy.