April 1970

After three astronauts landed on the moon in July 1969, they had to bring home a few souvenirs to mark their historic trip.

Those souvenirs actually were 48 pounds of moon rocks, brought back to Earth to be studied by scientists and to go on display in museums. A few were kept sealed for future studies.

One of these moon rocks made its way to Scranton’s Everhart Museum for exhibition for one week starting on April 7.

To get ready for this out-of-this-world exhibit, the staff at the Everhart had to install a special exhibition case for the lunar sample that was 8 feet high, 4 feet wide and 10 feet long and was made of bulletproof Plexiglas. The case weighed 1,000 pounds.

The moon rock inside the special case weighed 42.1 grams (1.49 ounces) and was collected from the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

men standing around rock

A lunar sample weighing 42.1 grams and looking much like any ordinary Scranton area rock was unveiled to the press and assorted officials on Monday, April 6, 1970 at the Everhart Museum. From left: SFC Ronald Godfrey, Judge Edwin P. Kosik, museum trustee; William E. Speare, curator of science; Edward Hughes, who represented Mayor Eugene Peters at the unveiling; and Sp. 4 Joseph Caputo. Times-Tribune Archives

With such an important and highly valuable item on exhibit, the museum arranged to have the display guarded by members of the 109th Infantry of the Pennsylvania National Guard during peak visiting times. During the off times, the museum’s maintenance staff stood sentry at the exhibit.

In addition to the moon rock, the museum showed official NASA films in the building’s auditorium. Outside on the museum’s lawn, members of the Lackawanna Astronomical Society were on hand each night to offer public viewing of the night’s sky through a Newtonian 12.5-inch reflecting telescope.

The exhibit closed on April 12. William Speare, associate director of the museum and curator of science, estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 people visited the museum to see the moon rock. Speare said that, on the final day of the exhibit, about 1,000 people an hour passed through the display and the museum.

Contact the writer: bfulton@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9140; @TTPagesPast on Twitter

Related –

To celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, we have put up a pop-up display in the lobby of the Scranton Times Building pages from our newspapers dealing with the mission. The display will up till the end of the month and will be open from 9am to 5pm.

If you can’t make it down to the building, you can view the pages on display here.

Also last week, we premiered our local history podcast called Historically Hip. The first episode deals with the Apollo 11 mission and Chappaquiddick.  You can listen here –