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  The search for the goodwill moon rocks (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   The search for the goodwill moon rocks
gliderpilotuk
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From: London, UK
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posted 02-20-2012 05:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
BBC Magazine: What has happened to NASA's missing moon rocks?
Some moon rocks have gone astray at times of revolution or political transition. The US national archives show that a rock was presented to the late Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, but Gutheinz believes it was sold after his execution.

Then there is the mysterious tale of how - after a fire at an observatory in Dublin - Ireland's Apollo 11 moon rock ended up lying in a rubbish dump, after apparently being thrown out with the rest of the debris...

As the article says, you have to love the story of the Irish mooon rock.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-22-2012 11:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Irish state broadcaster RTE aired a short piece about the dumped Apollo 11 moon rock on the RTE1 Six One News on Tuesday, 21 Feb. 2012. The clip is shown at 0:12:44 to 0:14:55 and is viewable until 28 Feb 2012.

Part explanation for the disposal into landfill was the unfortunate very close geographical proximity of Dunsink Observatory to Dunsink Municipal Dump. It would be interesting to know the cause of the 1977 fire and whether this was possibly an act of arson covering an act of theft.

The existing Apollo 17 goodwill moon rock and flown flag were last displayed in 2009 - the fact that the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin don't have this on permanent secure display is disappointing but may be due to the fate of the destroyed rock.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-22-2012 02:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dunsink Observatory Outbreak Of Fire in the Irish Astronomical Journal provides an excellent account of the events and circumstances of the 03 Oct 1977 fire thought to have destroyed the Irish Apollo 11 Goodwill Moon rock exhibit.

The article explores the possibility of arson which is definitely plausible given the day, 01:20 time of fire, rapid onset of fire, and presence of unidentified individuals in the vicinity at 00:55.

The article also alludes to expected trouble from vandalism and malicious damage. Dunsink Observatory was built in a rural location in 1785 but found itself sandwiched between the Dublin housing estates of Cabra and Finglas that sprung up in the 1950s/1960s. New neighbours also included a traveller camp and municipal dump. In the late 1970s the observatory unfortunately found itself in the middle of a high youth population in two economically depressed areas that were regularly subject to gang fights, crime and vandalism.

Although Dublin Fire Brigade found no evidence of forced entry, it remains a distinct possibility that the moon rock could have been stolen and the forensic evidence destroyed by arson.

gliderpilotuk
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From: London, UK
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posted 02-23-2012 03:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And I'd just packed my shovel for my next monthly business trip to Dublin...

dom
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posted 02-23-2012 04:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In a way I hope the moon rock WAS stolen before the fire started. At least that way it might "surface" again one day! Something that is unlikely to happen if it really is buried deep under all that landfill...

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-24-2012 12:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Further information sourced from Barry Pickup of the Irish Astronomical Society now confirms that Professor Patrick Wayman (Director of Dunsink Observatory 1964-1993) was quite certain that the 03 Oct 1977 fire had been a deliberate act.

Following the destruction of the Meridian Room in the blaze, the 200kg 8ft Solid Brass 1808 Ramsden Transit Circle Telescope was removed from the ruins to an outhouse for storage from whence it was stolen in Nov 1981 and never recovered.

The conventional story puts the loss of Ireland's Apollo 11 Goodwill Moon Rock down to accident/oversight and ends at the bottom of a landfill. A little research and some local knowledge of the area's history of criminality suggests that there may be an entirely different ending to this story!

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-24-2012 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Photo credit: John McConnell

Dunsink Observatory in the 1980s - the Meridian Room is the structure to the left of the main building and originally housed Ireland's Apollo 11 Goodwill Moon Rock.

dom
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posted 02-25-2012 05:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
...some local knowledge of the area's history of criminality suggests that there may be an entirely different ending to this story!
I think you are giving this local criminal element a level of sophistication they don't really deserve!

The only "hope" that this moon rock might have been stolen is if it was 'stolen to order'. Realistically I don't think people knew the historic/financial value of these Apollo 11 samples back then...

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-25-2012 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The fate of Ireland's Apollo 11 Goodwill Moon Rock and Mission Flown Flag is a genuine mystery that may never be solved.

It is worth considering that the building in which they were housed was almost 200 years old with multiple access points via windows/doors/shutters. Security measures were limited and rudimentary by today's standards. The grounds were isolated, not well lit, contained blind spots, and were quite accessible from the fields to the rear. These vulnerabilities would not have been difficult to exploit by passing vandals or a determined criminal. Public open nights would have afforded the opportunity to case the buildings in advance.

Simple human error from one of the director's children could have resulted in an unsecured door/window that night. The Apollo 11 exhibit would have been a potentially lucrative, highly portable, and easy steal for both an opportunistic or professional thief. A fire could have been deliberately set out of sheer malice or to destroy forensic evidence.

That part of North Dublin in the late 1970s suffered from continual random acts of vandalism, graffiti, arson, handbag thefts, car thefts, domestic/commercial burglaries, bank/post office raids etc. Suspects ranged from juvenile delinquents, junkies, career criminals to paramilitaries. Anything not nailed down and flak-jacketed was fair game. Dunsink Observatory was basically a sitting duck, as the subsequent 1981 theft of the Transit Circle for scrap metal value proved.

The sad reality is that the exhibit could have been destroyed by an electrical fire, torched by kids, stolen and tossed in the dump, stolen and fenced for drugs, or stolen and sold to a collector. Perceptions of the exhibit would have ranged from novelty to treasure. Think of the multiple robberies of the Beit Art Collection from Russborough House in Wicklow for a guide to how such treasures were handled by Dublin's criminal fraternity.

I just think that while the conventional narrative may be a great media story, it overlooks the social context of the time and the possibility that this artifact survives somewhere to this day.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 02-25-2012 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
The fate of Ireland's Apollo 11 Goodwill Moon Rock...
Not that it matters much, but for the sake of accuracy, the Apollo 11 lunar sample displays are not "goodwill moon rocks." The material that was used to create each presentation was four small pieces of what NASA categorizes as dust.

The term "goodwill moon rock" describes the slices of an actual rock collected by Apollo 17 and dedicated to the world's children while on the moon.

quote:
I just think that while the conventional narrative may be a great media story, it overlooks the social context of the time and the possibility that this artifact survives somewhere to this day.
I need to find the document, but I recall reading that Ireland's government reported to the U.S. government that the sample display was indeed accidentally discarded in the aftermath of the fire.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 02-25-2012 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
the Apollo 11 lunar sample displays are not "goodwill moon rocks."
Yes, Robert, my apologies - I was a little loose with the use of the terms goodwill and rock. They are, as you correctly point out, lunar dust samples.
quote:
I recall reading that Ireland's government reported to the U.S. government that the sample display was indeed accidentally discarded ...
That would be interesting to read. I'm sure the Irish government would have gone with the most logical and probable scenario presented to them by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at the Observatory. After all it's a very reasonable assumption.

My concern is two-fold:

  • The cause of the fire was never determined. Therefore, arson can not be definitively ruled out. There was a high index of suspicion regarding the blaze, especially held by the Director of Dunsink Observatory. If arson were the cause, it would suggest the presence of unauthorised individual(s) and raise the possibility of theft.

  • There doesn't appear to have been any positive identification of any remains of the artifact. It's unlikely anything would have survived such an intense fire, but it seems no serious effort was made to find it. Without any remains, one can not definitively conclude the artifact was in fact actually onsite during the fire. According to Dr. Ian Elliott, a Dunsink Observatory researcher in 1977:
    It was only afterwards that we realised that the bit of Apollo 11 Moon rock could not be found.

    It was gathered up with all of the other debris and dumped in the municipal dump which was conveniently just across the road.

    If we'd had any perception of the rock's value, perhaps all of the debris would have been sifted by archaeologists and it might have been found.

I would never definitively rule out alternative hypotheses until it is conclusively proved that they are either impossible or highly improbable.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-24-2012 06:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Associated Press: Moon chips from Vegas casino mogul sent to NASA
It's been a long, strange trip for what appears to be several tiny chips of lunar rock that found their way into a casino mogul's hands after being collected by the first men on the moon.

If they're real, they were plucked from the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, given by then-President Richard Nixon to former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, pilfered by a Costa Rican mercenary soldier-turned Contra rebel, traded to a Baptist missionary for unknown items, then sold to a flamboyant Las Vegas casino owner who squirreled them away in a safety deposit box.

Now, more than 2.5 years after Bob Stupak's death, an attorney for his estate has sent to NASA officials in Houston a tabletop display featuring the four gray chips the size of grains of rice. They're magnified in a Lucite dome about as big around as a U.S. 50-cent piece set with a small blue and white Nicaraguan flag. Combined, the chips weigh 0.05 grams.

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
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posted 05-24-2012 06:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sounds like the lawyer for the deceased owner's estate is doing the right thing. Kudos to him for his honesty.

chet
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From: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 05-24-2012 11:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Considering what happened to the sample the first time around, NASA would probably be doing the more responsible thing, in my opinion, by holding onto it in a secure place (as much as NASA itself is capable of doing so) "in trust for the people of Nicaragua".

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-17-2012 10:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Juneau Empire provides an update on the status of Alaska's Apollo 11 lunar sample display.
Alaska's historic moon rocks, collected by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, are back in NASA's custody.

Now, Alaska State Museums Curator Bob Banghart says he'd like to see them back in an Alaska museum.

"They belong to the state of Alaska, and they belong in the museum's collection," said Banghart, who has been following the case of the moon rocks for years.

...Coleman Anderson sued the state, claiming he owned the rocks and wanted to be declared the legitimate owner. The Alaska Attorney General's Office, representing the museum, is disputing the claim.

...Assistant Attorney General Neil Slotnick represents the museum in the case. He was unavailable Thursday but presented a summary of the case to the Board of Education recently.

Slotnick said that Anderson's claim of how he came to possess the moon rocks did not convey ownership of the rocks.

"He claimed that after the fire he found the plaque in the rubble and debris at the museum site, and that he saved it from destruction," Slotnick said.

Whether that account holds sway with the court will be decided later, but Slotnick said the state was successful in getting a court order to force Anderson to turn the moon rocks over to NASA for verification and safekeeping until eventual ownership is established.

Anderson first objected, saying the rocks were overseas, but did comply with the order, Slotnick said.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ
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posted 11-26-2012 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Associated Press reports Minnesota's Apollo 11 moon rocks have been found:
The Minnesota National Guard said Monday it found a few small fragments of the moon’s surface in storage in a state building in St. Paul. They’ll be turned over to the state Historical Society on Wednesday.

mikej
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From: Germantown, WI USA
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posted 12-07-2012 05:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Alaska has retaken possession of its Apollo 11 moon rock display:
A display of moon rocks that disappeared from an Alaska museum after an arson fire nearly four decades ago has been returned to the state following the settlement of a lawsuit by a man who claimed he rescued the rocks from the rubble.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ
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posted 12-18-2012 03:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not missing, but New York says it will display its Goodwill Rock:
The state's rarely-displayed fragment will be on view in the Albany museum's (New York State Museum) lobby from Wednesday through Feb. 10.

spacehiker
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From: London, UK
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posted 06-08-2013 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacehiker   Click Here to Email spacehiker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well I think I may have located the UK's flown moon rock and flown Apollo 11 flag.

On a recent visit to 10 Downing Street, I spotted it sitting on a side table in the hallway outside Margaret's Thatcher's old study. I managed to take a few photos of it.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-08-2013 12:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yep! That's it — we've had the location listed on our guide since spotting it in the virtual tour presented on the Downing Street website.

Your photo is better than the one we have. Can we have permission to add it to the guide (with proper credit, of course)?

spacehiker
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posted 06-08-2013 12:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacehiker   Click Here to Email spacehiker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes of course.

I did a double take when I saw it sitting there opposite a presentation from a South American country.


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