A moon rock, resting on a pedestal in the American Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World Exposition, became the latest trophy for the United States in its fierce space race with the Soviet Union. The exhibit was part of a broader approach to U.S. diplomacy in this period, where science and technology, or in this case a scientific specimen, were deployed to spread Western democratic values, win over international public opinion, and counter anti-American sentiment. But the moon rock’s physical resemblance to earth rocks prompted a broader discussion among Japanese audiences at the Expo about the aims of U.S. scientific and technological progress, and the practicality and applicability of American cultural norms to Japanese visions of modernity. By considering what happens when a scientific specimen travels outside of the laboratory context, outside the world of scientists, and into the world of foreign relations, this article investigates the complicated dynamics of science, material culture, and power during this critical juncture in the United States’ engagement with Japan.

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