The Moon Rock
Free thinking leads to innovation and in the thirty five year history of Professional Aviation we can think of no better example of this than the Moon Rock idea that became our most successful and enjoyable promotion.
The idea came simply from a think tank meeting between the directors of Professional Aviation who, with the moon hanging in the sky as stimulus, decided to ask NASA whether it was possible for us to loan one of the rocks collected on the moon as a focal point for our stand at Aerospace Africa 1998.
Professional Aviation eventually concluded an agreement with NASA which included our having to provide a personal courier to collect and return the moon rock, as well as 24 hour security in South Africa.
Professor David Block, Professor of Astronomy and Applied Mathematics at the University of the Witwatersrand and world renowned scientist, was taken with the idea and became deeply involved in the project.
The moon rock, together with a NASA spacesuit and helmet arrived by courtesy of South African Airways on the 8 April 1998 from the Linden B Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, and was met by a contingent of TV and press personnel as well as David Block and Rob Garbett, who were permitted onboard the South African Airways aircraft at Johannesburg International Airport.
Jon Qwelane and Katy Katapodis of Radio 702; David, Liz and son Aaron Block; Rob, Christine, Trevor and Cherrylain Garbett and many members of the press were present on the 9 April 1998 when we were honoured and privileged to give President Mandela a private viewing of the moon rock at his Houghton residence.
The Moon Rock, Spacesuit and the Mars Book were then taken to various schools around Gauteng as well being put on display at the Johannesburg Planetarium, Aerospace Africa 1998 and other exhibitions and venues including Cape Town.
Mars Book - One Million Names on Mars
A million names inscribed on a CD Rom was destined to be placed on the planet Mars in December 1999 by the Mars Polar Lander. NASA lost radio contact with The Lander just prior to the scheduled landing in 1998, however, as all indicators prior to entry were normal, NASA held the view that the CD bearing all the names of children from South Africa and worldwide, did indeed land on Mars as planned.
Professional Aviation decided, in conjunction with the moon rock project, that they would help NASA to collect names of children in South Africa, under the age of 18, which would be placed into a specially made and bound book sponsored by Professional Aviation.
We were privileged, and honoured, when President Mandela agreed to inscribe a personal message into the Mars Book.
The book was taken to many schools, hospitals and children's homes and was put on display at Aerospace Africa and at other functions and venues. Fourteen thousand four hundred and seventy one names were collected in South Africa and forwarded to NASA and included amongst the million names from all over the world that are presently on a CD Rom was placed on the Mars Polar. President Mandela's grand children and great grand children, as they were in April 1998, are featured amongst these names.
The completed Mars Book was presented to President Nelson Mandela by Rob Garbett in September 1999 together with a polished section of rock from the Vredefort meteorite site, as a memento of the moon rock, which shows the impact of the meteorite 2,7 billion years ago. This Vredefort Rock is one of ten only bearing a brass plaque which were presented to various organisations and individuals who played a significant role in the Moon Rock project. The recipients are South African Airways, NASA, Professor David Block, Jon Qwelane, John Robbie, Radio 702 Talk Show personalities, Dr Claire Flanagan of the Johannesburg Planetarium, John Bishop of Coin Security and Professor Uwe Reimold, Professor of Geology, Witwatersrand University.