Toulouse. The moonstone on display at the Cité de l’Espace arrived on Earth 50 years ago!

Moonstone at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse. (© Cité de l’Espace Alex Piechta)

Sitting in the middle of a hall Space city Toulouse For more than twenty years. the moon stone It always evokes a lot of emotions among the visitors. she was to ground exist Only half a century ago. Here is his story.

We’re in 1971. Humans first set foot on the Moon two years earlier and missions track each other on Earth’s satellite for the US space agency, NASA. 26 July 1971At 9:34 a.m. local time, a Saturn 5 missile was launched from Apollo XV mission Take off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

It is already the seventh time thatThus, a crew flies to the moon And the fourth manned mission that must set foot on its surface. On the other hand, it is the first to make use of the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV), A car that allows you to go further Compared to previous visits to the lunar star.

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During their second dive with equipment 385,000 km from Earth, 1He is August 1971, Leader David Scott The lunar eagle unit pilot James Irwin Heading to the edge From the crater of the sand dunes 3 kilometers from their ship. They take samples of a rock there.

The number one of them is 15499. It measures approximately 17 x 8 cm and weighs 2,024 kg. Altogether, two pedestrians report on the moon 76.7 kg of samples.

Stone has been working in Toulouse since 1998.
La Pierre (back right) in Toulouse since 1998. (© Cité de l’Espace Manuel Huynh)

Apollo 15 ends on August 7, 1971 With astronauts Scott, Irwin and Alfred Wooden returning to the blue planet.

The lunar samples brought by the Apollo missions are used very quickly to conduct this Scientific studies. And Cut into subsamples. The numbered number 15449 is no exception to the rule. After returning from the Apollo 15 mission, he was transferred to the Lunar Reception Laboratory at the Space Center in Houston And divided into 136 pieces larger or smaller.

But not all of these rock fragments end up in the hands of scientists. NASA also chose Institutional Lending for display to the public.

A piece weighing 163.44 g is over 3 billion years old

It is for The Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, which happened in 1998 The moonstone indicated is 15499.10. For this occasion the astronaut John Young (who went to the moon during the Apollo XVI mission) moved to the pink city. The stone was previously exposed to the massive Air and Space Museum, Washington.

It weighs 163.44 g and is about 3.4 billion years old. This stone has never known the Earth’s atmosphere directly. It bathes in nitrogenunder glass to avoid any oxidation.

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Unique in France

Toulouse is the only city in France to display moonstone in this way (which still belongs to NASA, because it’s a loan). Others sometimes, as was the case in 1969 at the Palais Decover in Paris after the first mission directly to the moon, or in Vienna (Austria), a few years ago. And some stay longer in the windows. Thus the success of the Parisian stone led to the extension of his stay in Discovery Palace.

Fake stone in a museum in the Netherlands!

But beware of counterfeit products. And so the extraordinary adventure of a Dutch museum took place in 2019. Le Rijksmuseum Amsterdam He discovered that his stone on display since 1991 was… A piece of petrified wood.

However it was stone Presented in 1969 to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands by the US ambassador. And the museum is proud of its acquisition, which it secured for 50 thousand euros! It was the expert’s doubts that put an end to the deception.

The stone weighs 163.44 g.
The stone weighs 163.44 g. (© Cité de l’Espace Manuel Huynh)

In Joe Biden’s office

In addition to museums, institutions also keep specimens out of sight for scientific purposes. And heads of state Sometimes check it out in their office. As is the case with US President Joe Biden. The moonstone brought back by Apollo XVII) is in the Oval Office of White House. But France also has other stones, since former President Richard Nixon distributed some to it world leaders in 1973, having already donated lunar dust fragments to 134 countries in 1969.

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