Geosciences Lecture Series: When the Apollo 11 Moon Rocks Came to Princeton
From Geosciences Department on October 30th, 2019
Over 4,450 people viewed the display of Princeton's moon rocks in Guyot Hall the weekend following their arrival. At times the lines reached from Guyot past the entrance to McCosh Infirmary. People waited as long as 45 minutes to view the three gravel sized pieces of the moon. — Daily Princetonian, 24 November 1969
Lincoln Hollister's presentation on the early experiences of the late Professor Robert Hargraves and himself in their studies of the moon rocks at Princeton, which began with the arrival of the Apollo 11 samples in Princeton in early November, 1969.
Harry Hess brought Lincoln to Princeton in 1968 to set up an electron microprobe for the study of the moon rocks in anticipation of their arrival. In addition to launching the plate tectonics paradigm in the early 60’s, Harry was a major force in space exploration and planning for the Apollo program. Unfortunately, he died just before the Apollo 11 astronauts brought the first moon rocks to earth.
When the late Robert Hargraves carried them from Houston to Princeton he and Lincoln got to work. It was a busy November/December, because they had to have results and conclusions prepared for the first Lunar Science conference in January 1970. Robert and Lincoln and students and postdocs and colleagues worked on returned samples from all six Apollo moon landings.
At the January 1970 conference Hargraves and Hollister showed that the Al-bearing pyroxene phenocrysts in the Mare lavas grew rapidly at the lunar surface; the high Al content of the pyroxenes was not inherited from high pressures in the lunar interior, which was the collective wisdom of the time.
Photo caption: Princeton, N.J, October 31, 1969 - Professor Robert B. Hargraves (left) opens one of the three plastic containers in which moon rocks arrived from NASA. Looking on are two other members of the University’s lunar analysis investigating team Professor Lincoln S. Hollister and Doctor Guillermo Otalora. Historical Photograph Collection: Campus Life, Academics Series, AC112.01, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.