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In honor of today being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, here are some SAM answers about the moon...

Q: How many rocks were brought back from the moon, and what was done with them all?


Answer: According to NASA, between 1969 and 1972 six Apollo missions brought 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of material, including rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust back from the lunar surface, totally 2,200 separate samples.

Also, three automated Soviet spacecraft brought back 300 grams, about three-quarters of a pound, of material from three other lunar sites.

“The lunar sample building at Johnson Space Center is the chief repository for the Apollo samples,” according to NASA. “The lunar sample laboratory is where pristine lunar samples are prepared for shipment to scientists and educators. Nearly 400 samples are distributed each year for research and teaching projects.”

“Goodwill Moon Rocks” were distributed to nations around the world by the Nixon administration following the Apollo 17 mission, given to 135 foreign heads of state as well as the U.S. states and its provinces. Some are on display now, some in storage, and others have vanished over time or their status is unknown. You can read more about that program, and see photos and descriptions of those moon rocks, at

Q: Were any of the Apollo astronauts from North Carolina?


Answer: Charles Moss Duke Jr. from Charlotte was part of the Apollo program. He was lunar module pilot for the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972 and at age 36 was the youngest person to walk on the moon.

Before that, he was part of mission control when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, and you have probably heard his voice. He was the man who, after the crew transmitted “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed,” replied “Roger Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.” In a 1999 interview, he talked about almost flubbing his words because he was so excited, starting to say “twankwility” rather than “tranquility.”

According to a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle, Moss, who is now 83, left a family photo of himself, his wife, and their sons on the lunar surface.

Other astronauts from North Carolina who were involved in later NASA missions include Thomas Marshburn, a Statesville native who graduated from medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine and was part of several missions involving the International Space Station, and Michael J. Smith from Beaufort, who died in the Challenger explosion.

Ron McNair, who was among those killed in the 1986 Challenger explosion, was from Lake City, S.C., but he attended N.C. A&T State University. The college of engineering at A&T is named for McNair.

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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