House approves moon rock giveaway to Apollo survivors
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thirty-two moon rocks may soon be in private hands
for the first time, under legislation passed Tuesday by the House of
Representatives on a 419-0 vote.
The lunar samples would be the central feature of an "Apollo
Exploration Award" to be given to every Apollo astronaut or a surviving family
Although small moon rocks (roughly 1 gram each) were presented to U.S.
governors and some heads of state following the manned moon landings, they
remain the property of the state or country, not the individual who received
In addition, while those samples were encased in lucite, the House
bill specifies "the design of the award shall permit free access to and removal
of the lunar sample by the award recipient."
That provision is of some concern to Gary Lofgren, lunar curator at
NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the samples are now
stored and studied.
"Some of these samples are 'crumbly," said Lofgren, "and they could
break apart without great care."
But a Johnson Space Center source who asked not to be identified said there's a
sufficient amount of lunar material on which scientific analysis has been
completed to satisfy the requirement the transfer would not compromise such
The legislation prohibits the sale, barter or exchange of an award by the
recipient, and while it could be passed down within an astronaut's family, it
would have to be returned to NASA if there is no heir.
The award would be presented to each crewmember from all 12 three-man
Apollo missions, including the Apollo 7 and 9 Earth-orbit flights as well as
the Apollo 1 crew, which perished in a launch pad fire in 1967. That would
mean 32 awards, as four astronauts flew twice.
The bill is expected to pass the Senate before Congress adjourns in