The Canada lunar sample displays are two commemorative plaques consisting of small fragments of Moon specimen brought back with the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 lunar missions and given in the 1970s to the people of Canada by United States President Richard Nixon as goodwill gifts.
The Apollo 11 Canadian moon rocks commemorative podium plaque display consists of four "moon rock" rice-size particle specimens that were collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969 and a small Canadian flag that went to the Moon and back.
The four Moon rocks weigh about 0.05 grams total and are entirely enveloped in a clear plastic button the size of a coin which is mounted to a wooden board approximately a foot square on a small podium pedestal display. The small podium plaque display also has mounted on it a small Canadian flag that had been taken to the moon and back on Apollo 11, which lies directly below the Moon rocks. The small podium plaque display was given to the people of Canada as a gift by President Richard Nixon. Similar lunar sample displays were also distributed to all the states of the United States and all the countries of the world.
The Canada Apollo 17 lunar sample display commemorative wooden plaque (10 by 14 inches) consists of one Moon rock particle specimen that was cut from lunar basalt 70017 and a Canadian flag. The basalt 70017 was collected by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt on the Moon in 1972. Once lunar basalt 70017 was brought back to Earth from the Moon, the basalt Moon rock was cut up into small fragments of approximately 1 gram. The specimen was enveloped in a plastic ball and mounted on the wooden plaque along with the Canadian flag which had been taken to the Moon and back by the crew of Apollo 17. The wooden plaque display was then distributed in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to the country of Canada as he did that year to all the countries of the world and all the states of the United States (the same as for the Apollo 11 plaque display gifts). This was done as a goodwill gesture to promote peace and harmony.
In 1972 a 10-day international "Youth Science Tour" took place in the United States with 80 "youth ambassadors" ages 17 to 21 from all the countries of the United Nations participating. Jaymie Matthews, age 13 at the time (falsely identifying himself as 17), of Chatham, Ontario, was the Canadian "youth ambassador" representative whose reward for winning an essay contest on "The Importance of Space Flight to Mankind" was to go to the United States national capital. There Matthews met President Nixon and vice-president Spiro Agnew.
From Washington, D.C. the "youth ambassadors" were flown to Orlando, Florida and put up in a luxury hotel. They watched the launch of Apollo 17 in Florida from NASA's Mission Control Center. Matthews not only saw the launch but the landing of Apollo 17 on the Moon, which was memorialised by astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt when they talked directly to the "youth ambassadors" from the surface of the Moon. Matthews was able to see astronaut Neil Armstrong personally at the luxury hotel in Orlando, Florida. He also got quite acquainted with Armstrong's daughter and became lifetime pen pals with her.
The program directors promised each "youth ambassador" a lunar sample from the Apollo 17 mission. In 1973 Matthews was sent the Canadian "goodwill moon rock" encased in a clear Lucite ball about the size of a billiard ball and mounted to a 10-inch by 14-inch wooden board. In the center of the plaque was a small Canadian flag that had flown on the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon and back. On the bottom was a label inscribed:
Matthews kept the commemorative Canadian "goodwill moon rock" display in his bedroom. The Apollo 17 display was out in plain view for months in his bedroom. He often showed it off to his space geeks. On September 21, 1973, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall (home of the governor-general Roland Michener), Matthews turned over possession of the lunar sample display to the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa, where it was exhibited for several years.
In 1978 the museum lost the lunar sample wooden plaque display during a national tour. They told Matthews it was stolen during the tour in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As the years went on. Matthews became a professor at the University of British Columbia. One day, as he was teaching a class, he googled for the commemorative Canadian "goodwill moon rock" display. He came upon a picture taken of it in 2000. Doing more googling, he discovered it was in a museum warehouse in Aylmer, Quebec. Matthews compares it to a huge warehouse scene in "Raiders of The Lost Ark" where millions of pieces are stored. It was literally lost in the multitude of items stored and only through the accidental chance of Matthews finding a picture of it did its continued existence come to light. The National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa told Matthews back in 1978 that apparently it was stolen, since at that time they themselves had lost it and needed a story to cover that. There wasn't even a 1978 national tour. It was all a cover-up story for Matthews. Eventually the Apollo 17 "goodwill moon rock" display was put back on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.