October 24, 2007

A Piece of the Moon Lands in Broward’s Main Library

In Susan Eisele Black's life there have been what she calls "moments when the whole world stops and watches."

"Two of them were very sad -- when President Kennedy was shot and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001," she said. "Then there's when Buzz [Aldrin] and Neil [Armstrong] walked on the moon."

Eisele Black was part of that memorable moment.

"It was incredible," she said. "They didn't just get on a space shuttle and land on the moon. It took years of planning."

Her late husband was astronaut and Ret. Air Force Col. Donn Eisele, the command module pilot for the 11-day flight of Apollo 7 in 1968.

NASA is honoring the astronaut's involvement in the space program by presenting Eisele Black with a small piece of history -- a moon rock encased in Lucite, called the Ambassador of Exploration Award.

The rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during the six Apollo lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972.

Eisele Black accepted the award Tuesday at the Broward County Main Library, which she chose as the place to display her piece of history.

It is the first public library in the country to exhibit a piece of lunar material.

"This library is now a part of history," said Broward Mayor Josephus Eggelletion Jr.

Eisele Black has lived outside of Orlando with her second husband since 2005. But she has fond memories of Fort Lauderdale, where she lived with her late husband for several years in the 1980s.

"I thought it would be fitting that we would keep it here," Eisele Black said. "I wanted it to be in a place where plenty of children could come and see it. And it's free."

A video of the contributions made by Apollo 7 will play on a flat-screen TV near the moon rock exhibit case on the sixth floor of the library.

Apollo 7 was the first manned mission in the Apollo program and the first three-man American space mission.

As part of the Ambassadors of Exploration program, NASA gives moon rocks to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.

The astronaut or his family member selects a museum or educational institution to publicly display the rock in their name to help inspire a new generation of astronauts.

The half-inch pebble presented to Eisele Black on Tuesday is from the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

Eisele retired from NASA in 1972.

He spent two years in Thailand as the director of the Peace Corps, and in the 1980s he opened a consulting company in Fort Lauderdale. Eisele died in 1987 while setting up a space camp in Japan.

"Donn was a historical figure," Eisele Black said. "But like the rest of us he had to come back to Earth and still take out the trash. We all had to just go on living."