A Moon Rock!
As groups enter the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Air and Space from the mall side, they tend to miss a lonely, black steel tower that is almost obscured by the security area. But if it is found, the delight on the faces of these students is unmistakable, for it displays a piece of moon rock brought back by the astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission.
Not only can it been seen, but it can be touched! The connection that one is touching something from a celestial entity over 240,000 miles away that represents the highest scientific and engineering achievement of mankind, is not lost.
These are the words I routinely hear exclaimed.
Many take a few moments to reflect, the serious expressions on their faces belie the depth of thought; never underestimate these, most are quite profound and poetic.
While the moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum is private, personal, and tactile, the moon rock imbedded in the Washington National Cathedral’s ‘Space Window’ underscores the majesty of the event and puts it into a theological context. This rock was also a gift of the same astronauts, one of whom (Michael Collins, the only one not to have walked on the moon’s surface) had been a student at the St. Alban’s School for Boys, which is the academic choir school attached to the more properly named, Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Looking up from the Cathedral, one is surprised that the red moon is actually depicted larger than the earth and the moon rock has been placed smack in the center.
One student looking up thought it was the eye of God looking down upon her! Others experience an epiphany that God’s kingdom is not confined to earth but is infinite. Most just think it is ‘cool’ that a space window would be in a cathedral. Bosses* above the window are carved to represent Alan Shepherd in his capsule and footprints on the moon.
These two places rock!
*Boss – Architectural term: A raised ornament, such as one at the intersection of the ribs in a vaulted roof
PHOTOS: : This Washington National Cathedral is not the only cathedral where the moon landing is celebrated, Blue Peter, a children's show in Britain had a contest for children to design bosses for York Minster Cathedral in Yorkshire. A six year old Rebecca-Rose Welsh, the youngest winner, designed a Man on the Moon for their vaulted ceiling which had been destroyed after a disastrous fire.
Moonrock at the Air and Space Museum
Photo of the moonrock at the Air and Space Museum
The National Museum of Air and Space now also hosts some American icons from the National Museum of American History. They have various educational programs and activities all of which can be requested in advance: (A favorite of my groups is the paper airplane contest!)
Space and Technology Window
Educational Tour Information and Touring Options
Group Visit Request Form
Close Up Tours