Most people know that in 1969, astronauts landed on the moon.
Many Central Oregonians even know that before they landed on the moon, they landed in Central Oregon to train.
But little did I know that there is literally a piece of Central Oregon sitting on the moon . . . right now.
It was Kennedy that made the call for the moon shot in 1961.
But since they really didn’t know what the moon was made of, and needed to prepare for an eventual human landing, they decided to take their best guess and focus on volcanic rock.
And since Central Oregon is the place where you will find more different kinds of lava than anywhere else on earth, astronauts and the media descended on Central Oregon to begin testing equipment and techniques that they would have to use upon a successful landing on the moon.
Needless to say, many around these parts were excited. Including Rick Miller’s grandfather, Floyd Watson.
“The Bend Chamber really capitalized on Central Oregon moon country and the city fathers were all excited about it”, Rick points out.
The chamber paired each astronaut up at a local businessman.
Floyd Watson got paired up with a guy named James Irwin.
And little did Floyd know, James was going to become one of the chosen few.
“He met James Irwin in 1966. But he finally found out in 1971, that James Irwin had been selected for Apollo 15.”
That meant James Irwin was going to become one of only 12 people to ever set foot on the moon.
So Floyd got an idea…
“He decided to go out to Devil’s Lake. Which had a number of features that they felt were a lot like the moon and that they had trained out near, and found he found a rock that he thought would be nice to get a little sliver of rock off of.”
Floyd sent that chip of rock to James Irwin along with a letter requesting that he place it on the moon when he arrived.
And then Floyd waited.
“And waited and waited. And then about three months after they got back, he received a letter. Something like . . ‘it’s so good to hear from you Mr. Watson. I did receive your sliver of rock from Central Oregon and have placed it on the moon.”
James promised to send him a photo of the rock on the moon’s surface as soon as it was suitable for framing.
So Floyd once again . . . waits.
“He waits and he waits and then finally when it does come it’s a picture of him and it says ‘Central Oregon Rock on the Moon. Best – James Irwin’”
And now that little hunk of Central Oregon rock has not only found a home on the moon, but has become quite a celebrity. It’s been featured on displays at The High Desert Museum, there is a current display at the Deschutes Historical Museum and most recently…
“OPB just did a documentary about that time period too called “Oregon Moon Country”, which is fantastic.
So next time you look at the moon, look a little bit, okay a lot closer, and you may just see a piece Central Oregon smiling back at you.