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Full Coverage: Moon rock posted on eBay

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Moon rock pulled from auction website

December 17, 1999, 8:00 p.m. ET — Through e-mails with the seller mikestradingpost.net, collectSPACE has learned that the lunar rock pendant was not unique and that seven more were created. According to "Mike" (who refused to be identified), after the stone was spliced and one half was given to the museum, the remaining sample was then cut with a diamond-tipped drill into eight pieces, each in the shape of a crescent moon.

A third party — not Merel Rose — approached Mike with one of these pendants and a proposal to divide the profits in exchange for using his eBay account to list the moon rock. Mike claims he was unaware of the law prohibiting ownership/distribution of moon rocks and therefore agreed to list the pendant. Upon learning of the restrictions from collectSPACE, he promptly ended the auction.

Attempts to obtain information about the lunar sample on display at Texas Tech University's museum have been unsuccessful.

collectSPACE has been in contact with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at NASA Headquarters and has provided a copy of our article and contact information for mikestradingpost.net as requested.




Moon rock pulled from auction website


December 17, 1999 — A lunar rock, allegedly recovered by the astronauts during the first moon landing, has been pulled from a popular auction website. The eBay lot was removed voluntarily after collectSPACE alerted the seller to the illegal nature of his sale.

According to the auction description, the lunar rock was presented in 1970 to Santa Fe Railroad conductor Merel Rose by Moco Condrall, a NASA Supply Officer. The two had attended Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in 1930. Prior to their graduation, Rose voluntarily took the blame for Condrall who was caught leaving a female dormitory. Rose had already withdrawn from the college and claimed that he was the person seen departing in the middle of night.

Condrall, who was applying for Officer's Training School, never forgot his friend's sacrifice. So when the two had a reunion in 1970, he presented the moon rock to Rose as a token of his gratitude. Condrall claimed the 1 1/2 inch rock was just one of a "handful" presented to him by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

In 1984, Rose had the rock divided, dontating half to the Texas Tech Museum and mounting the remainder in a 14 karat gold pendant. It is this that mikestradingpost.net posted to eBay.

"NASA policy and federal law do not allow the distribution or possession of lunar material by third parties." said Pete Roe, NASA investigative operations manager, in an interview with the Washington Post. The quote appeared in an article involving the sale of lunar dust.

In that case, a pen set belonging to a former NASA employee was thought to include very small fragments of one of the first lunar specimens. NASA confiscated the set after the late owner's daughter had sent it to be authenticated for possible sale. The daughter's demand for the set to be returned made national headlines after she appeared on NBC's Today Show pleading her case.

"The current review stems from past experiences where consumers were victims of fraud and misrepresentation about the authenticity of lunar rocks," said NASA Inspector General Roberta Gross on the set's seizure. "People will pay substantial sums of money for so-called 'lunar material' which are later determined to be fake."

Rose's lunar sample was posted without a minimum bid, but included a unspecified reserve price. As of 12:57 pm ET Friday, December 17, the lot had received 6 bids with the highest at $153.50. Soon thereafter, the auction was ended by the seller.

Although the rock is no longer for sale, it still remains subject to seizure by NASA. The civilian space agency could also demand the return of the sample's other half on display at the museum, as well as any others Condrall may still have in his possession.

How the situation proceeds may depend on whether the specimen was authentic.

Condrall indicated that the rocks were given to him by the astronauts. However, during a live web chat hosted by Starport.com, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin seemed to imply that was impossible.

When asked if he was ever given a lunar rock, Aldrin replied, "No. At first the moon rocks were thought to be potentially toxic. I hope in the near future Congress and NASA will loan us a piece for personal display."

Regardless of its authenticity, Condrall, Rose and the seller could all be facing federal prosecution. If the rock is shown to be a fake, they could be held for fraud, as was illustrated by the case of Brian and Ronald Trochelmann.

The brothers were found guilty in a federal court after attempting to sell a fake moon rock for millions of dollars. The two claimed that the lunar sample was a gift to their father by then-Senator John Glenn. Allegedly, they knew the rock was of terrestrial origin but had negotiated the sale as if it was lunar material.

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