The Way Back: Moon Unit

A small chunk of the moon resides on the Forty Acres. Between 1969 and 1972, American astronauts brought back 842 pounds of similar specimens of moon rock. Encased in Lucite and mounted for public display, NASA gave this one to CBS news anchor and former Daily Texan reporter Walter Cronkite, ’35, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, in 2006. He in turn donated it to UT, where his papers are housed at the Briscoe Center for American History. The sample was given to him in recognition for his sterling service covering the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions—in particular his marathon live coverage of the first moon landing in July 1969. Indeed, Cronkite was on the air for 27 of the 30 hours it took for Neil Armstrong and company to complete their mission, a feat that earned him the nickname Old Iron Pants.  

Per NASA requirements, the Briscoe Center keeps the lunar sample locked away in a safe when not being publicly displayed. In 2010, the center published Conversations with Cronkite, in which he compared the moon landing to Columbus’ discovery of America. “A lot of important things happened in 1492, but can you recall any dates other than 1492?” Cronkite asked interviewer Don Carleton. “The technological and scientific developments of our own century just boggle the mind. And yet, I think that the one incident, the one episode that will be remembered, is when man escaped his environment on Earth and went to the moon.”  


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