Moon Rocks Returning to Space
The STS-130 crew patch The patch for the STS-130 mission reflects a new way to look at the world using the cupola that space shuttle Endeavour is carrying to the International Space Station. Crew members selected a number of souvenir items for their flight that, when returned to Earth, could also shape the way others see their world. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The moon is going to the International Space Station – a small part of it, anyway.

George Zamka and five other astronauts are taking the lunar souvenir and a rock from Earth's highest peak on Mount Everest aboard space shuttle Endeavour as part of the commemorative payload for the STS-130 mission.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected the moon rock during the historic Apollo 11 landing in 1969. The sample is made up of fragments of one of the rocks picked up during that first moon exploration.

Former astronaut Scott Parazynski picked up the Mount Everest rock while scaling the Himalayan peak. He also carried the moon sample with him during the climb.

"These rocks have already done more than a human being could do in a lifetime," Zamka said when Parazynski turned the rocks over to him for their trip back into space. "They're about to get a mileage upgrade."

A plaque with the samples will be mounted inside another Endeavour payload, the Tranquility module. Tranquility has its own lunar lineage, since it has been named for Apollo 11's landing site, the moon's Sea of Tranquility.

Together, the geological treasures represent the goals and payoffs of exploration. They will be attached to the wall inside the cupola Zamka's crew is taking up to the station during STS-130.

"They're going to be a reminder of what human beings can do and what our challenges are," Zamka said.

Just as the moon rocks are set to inspire those flying on the International Space Station, a number of other commemoratives are expected to stir the imaginations and determinations of those on Earth.

The souvenirs going up include jerseys from the Air Force baseball team and Florida Marlins, along with a T-shirt representing the American Cancer Society. A small stuffed ram will make the trip representing the Awty International School in Houston.

The crew members are also taking slide rules from Towell Inc. in Concord, Calif., and the University of Memphis in Tennessee. The astronauts also manifested a small knife representing the Laborers Training Unit in St. Louis.

Although the moon rocks will stay aboard the space station, the other items slated to return aboard Endeavour will be showcased in displays intended to inspire those who come in contact with them.

Steven Siceloff
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center