Many decorations change inside the Oval Office when a new president moves in. As President Joe Biden settles into his new office, one change that didn’t get as much notice as the portrait of Benjamin Franklin or bust of Cesar Chavez was a genuinely otherworldly object.
Biden has included a moon rock among the new decoration, which, according to The Washington Post, was selected to “remind Americans of the ambition and accomplishments of earlier generations.” NASA’s announcement adds that the artifact retrieved by Apollo 17 adorns the Oval Office “in symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach.”
The pockmarked rock is on loan from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. As can be seen in the photo, the display case is inscribed with “Lunar Sample 76015,143.”
That particular sample was retrieved from the moon in 1972 by Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, per NASA. These were the last humans to set foot on the moon, and the rock was chipped from a large boulder “at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley.” Among the other reasons it was selected, using a rock from the last moon mission is a nod toward the coming Artemis missions that aim to put humans, including the first woman, on the lunar surface by 2024.