UNDATED - Joe Gutheinz is thrilled Canadians will soon get to see Canada's Goodwill Moon Rock after it was gathering dust for three decades locked away in a warehouse.
The former senior special agent for NASA said Wednesday he's "very grateful and happy" that the moon rock will be put on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa this week.
"Canada should be very proud of having their moon rock back out on display," said Gutheinz from his office, about 1 1/2 kilometres away from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Gutheinz, who said he has waged an 11-year campaign to bring what he calls a "national treasure" back into public view, had said on Monday he was outraged that Canadians, especially children, weren't getting to see the moon rock, and he called for it to be pulled out of storage. He was disappointed it wasn't out for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on Monday.
Canadians will be able to see, but not touch the Goodwill Moon Rock. That's because the tiny sliver - weighing about 1.142 grams - is encased in Lucite. Some other regular moon rocks, such as those on display at the Smithsonian Institution, can be touched by visitors.
"Eight-year-olds are going to be able to go in there and see a treasure, see something they've never seen before and get this electric connection with the past, the future and with people all over the world who are looking at exactly the same type of Lucite ball that came from the same mother rock," he said Wednesday. "I just think it's awesome and inspiring."
Canada's Goodwill Moon Rock was carved from a larger, multicoloured boulder spotted by U.S. astronaut Harrison (Jack) Schmitt during his trip to the lunar surface during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
When he returned to Earth, Schmitt suggested to then-U.S. president Richard Nixon that the boulder be carved up and given to countries around the globe. The Goodwill Moon Rocks were given to 135 countries, as well as the 50 American states and Puerto Rico.
Gutheinz, now a lawyer and professor, assigns his students to hunt down Goodwill Moon Rocks around the world through an online course at the University of Phoenix. He plans a trip to Ottawa to see Canada's moon rock first-hand in August.
Canada's tiny piece of the moon has been in storage in the Canadian Museum of Nature's warehouse in Aylmer, Que., since the late 1970s. Initially, there were plans by the nature museum in Ottawa to exhibit it next May but that was scrubbed because the museum said it didn't have enough room due to renovations. The city's science museum snapped up the chance to put the moon rock on prominent display.
Science museum spokeswoman Kelly Ray said the moon rock will be put on show to the public by Friday at the latest, depending on how quickly staff can write up the text to go along with the exhibit and set up the display.
"It's a rare opportunity to be able to pull it out for the anniversary of the landing. We're quite excited about this opportunity," Randall Brooks, who's with the science museum's collections department, said Wednesday.
The moon rock, which comes with a small plaque that also displays the Canadian flag that flew in space, will initially be part of the museum's MegaScience exhibit. In another week or two, it will be transferred to the museum's Canada In Space exhibit, where it will be on display for the best part of a year, said Brooks.