Wales

Wales plea over Apollo 11 moon dust gift

Buzz Aldrin on the moon after successful Apollo 11 mission Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Moon dust and rocks from the Apollo 11 mission were given to countries across the world

A gift of moon dust from the United States sparked official concern about when it should go on display in Wales, documents have revealed.

The Apollo 11 lunar rock was a present from the United States President Richard Nixon to the UK.

The National Museum of Wales wanted it after Scotland, but was in competition with the Norfolk city of Norwich.

That could have posed "presentational difficulties" wrote an official to the prime minister's private secretary.

"The National Museum of Wales would like to receive the moon dust on loan for a month or so preferably after it has been released by the Royal Scottish Museum," said Richard Munday, in the papers released after 30 years by the National Archives.

"There would, as I am sure you will appreciate, be presentational difficulties if Wales came after Norwich."

The plea appeared to have been successful and the moon dust went on display in Cardiff before it travelled to Norwich.

Image copyright Getty Images

It was later put on show in Newport, Swansea and Aberystwyth.

The moon dust consisted of "four miniscule pieces embedded in a clear plastic globule mounted for display".

The display stand featured a Union flag that had been taken to the moon and back by Apollo 11.

President Nixon had presented it to Prime Minister Harold Wilson in January 1970, but its preferred whereabouts occupied officials and politicians for more than a decade.

Edward Heath, PM from 1974 to 1979, was unable to identify an "aesthetically suitable" public spot in 10 Downing Street and it was placed in a cupboard.

In January 1985, Margaret Thatcher decided the display should be placed in the waiting area at No 10, where it remains today.

Papers also released by the National Archives show former prime minister Margaret Thatcher ordered a review of funding in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland - amid claims that public spending in Scotland was too high..

The also revealed she was originally opposed to regeneration of Cardiff docklands and the Cardiff Bay barrage project.

The releases also unveiled how the Welsh secretary at the time, Nicholas Edwards, urged the prime minister to reject any plans to build a bridge linking England and France, based on his own experiences of using the Severn Bridge and the Cleddau Bridge in Pembrokeshire.

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