The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Woman busted by the NASA undercover police for attemptig to sell moon rock for $1.7 million

Apollo 14 Commander Alan Shepard and the U.S. flag                   Credit: NASA
I'm not sure what surprises me more; that there is a thriving black market for moon rocks or that NASA has undercover police. I had always believed  moon rocks were under lock and key in government institutions and museums, but there appears to be quite a number of the rocks floating around out there. As to the NASA undercover police – who knew!

NASA investigators and California's Riverside County sheriff's deputies detained a woman after she tried to sell a moon rock to an undercover NASA operative for $1.7 million. When the woman pulled out the rock to show the investigator, police swooped in. The woman, who was released, has potential charges pending.

It's illegal for a normal citizen to sell or own a moon rock in the United States, which are considered national treasures. These treasures were pretty widely distributed by then president Richard Nixon, who made gifts of the rocks to each U.S. state and 136 countries. There were about 2,200 samples of lunar rocks and other samples brought back by the various Apollo missions. Recently a survey showed that 10 states and 90 counties could not account for their moon rocks. No surprise that their is a thriving market for the rocks; both authentic and counterfeit.

Moon rock on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington  Credit: Alkivar/Wikipedia 

Most moon rocks offered for sale are bogus. In fact, a rock on display at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, turned out to be a a fake and not an artifact collected by the Apollo 11 crew as previously believed.

Back to our rock seller. She faces one of two charges: either charges related to possessing and selling a moon rock, if the rock is real or fraud if it's not. "We don't know if it's lunar material," commented Gail Robinson, the deputy inspector general at NASA. The agency is now testing the rock to determine if it is authentic. Caveat emptor.