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  Where have all the moon rocks gone?

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Author Topic:   Where have all the moon rocks gone?
Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-15-2006 09:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was interviewed on background for Susan Kruglinski's article "Whatever Happened To... Moon Rocks?" in the July 2006 issue of Discover magazine.
Experts fear that a quarter of those rocks are now missing.
The "missing" moon rocks refer to the Apollo 17 Goodwill presentations.

"Missing," as it turns out, is a subjective term (as was explained in the interview) in so much that they may be exactly where the country wants it but neither I, nor the handful of others trying to index their locations, have been able to locate them as of yet. That said, there are some verifiably missing — stolen, sold or in some cases, lost when the nation ceased to exist.

NASA has no reason to track the current whereabouts of the 135 presentations as they no longer belong to the U.S. (though, we have assisted when nations have reported their sample stolen). The same can be said for the earlier Apollo 11 dust and pebble presentations, also gifted to the same 135 nations.

As for the majority of the Apollo-returned lunar material, it is carefully tracked and what isn't on loan for scientific study or museum/educational display, resides in two vaults: at Johnson Space Center (the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, built specifically for Apollo) and at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico.

John K. Rochester
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posted 06-15-2006 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wasn't there a sample thrown in the garbage up there at Stony Brook?

Blackarrow
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posted 06-15-2006 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How many of us have actually touched a piece of the Moon with our bare hands? The Air and Space Museum in Washington DC has (at least it did in March, 2003) a thin disc of Apollo 17 Moon-rock polished smooth (I assume to prevent people scraping off a sample with a finger-nail). Visitors are encouraged to rub the sample with the bare hand.

cosmos-walter
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posted 06-15-2006 05:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't forget: Some moon rocks reached earth as meteorites.

As by now only a total of 10 to 20 kg lunar meteorites were found on earth. Parts and even slices of them are available for rather reasonable prices.

spacecraft films
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posted 06-16-2006 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually my impression was that the moon rock at the National Air and Space Museum is polished smooth from people touching it.

I've touched it a couple of times and it seems to grow smoother and smoother.

I wonder if/when it has to be replaced.

mensax
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posted 06-16-2006 05:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensax   Click Here to Email mensax     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe there are real moon rocks, brought back by the Apollo missions, on display in the Natural History Museum in Washington DC.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-16-2006 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In addition to the touchstone, the National Air and Space Museum has several larger (unpolished) rocks on loan from NASA, including a sample from Apollo 15.

A complete list of displays is available online via NASA's website.

David Stephenson
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posted 06-16-2006 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Stephenson   Click Here to Email David Stephenson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw a piece of moon rock at the Natural History Museum in London a couple of days ago. It was a nice surprise as I didn't realise they had a piece.

pokey
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posted 06-16-2006 10:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for pokey   Click Here to Email pokey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the moon rocks at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at JSC: Each of the glove boxes in the main room are assigned to one Apollo flight. So Apollo 14 rocks are never put in any glove box except an Apollo 14 one, etc. I was told 15 years ago some of the moon rocks have never been examined to remain as pristine samples for future generations. Assume that policy is still in effect.

One of the members of the CAL Tech Lunatic Asylum told me some of the moon dust was sprinkled on lab rodents' food by biologists to see if anything weird would happen. The rats/mice stayed healthy, so the practice stopped which totally elated that particular geologist. Another story involved some technician that was dusting some equipment to recover some already contaminated moon dust accidentally inhaled a little and told some friends it was a very expensive snort.

FFrench
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posted 06-16-2006 11:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David Stephenson:
I saw a piece of moon rock at the Natural History Museum in London a couple of days ago.
They used to have three samples on display in that building - two in the dramatic gallery where the escalator goes through the Earth model (one rock, and another disc of lunar soil samples) and then the UK's official presentation piece upstairs in a case.

HMS
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posted 06-17-2006 01:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for HMS   Click Here to Email HMS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I got to touch a moon rock at the space museum in Vancouver, Canada. It also was very smooth and for security was set in a display that secured it so that you had to stretch your hand to rub a finger over the rock. Great experience.

Obviousman
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posted 06-17-2006 03:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think there is also a piece you can touch at either KSC or the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville.

When I went to them in Jan 03 (my personal Hajj) and am pretty sure we were able to touch a sample.

*sigh* I wish airfares between Oz and the US were cheaper....

HansReinhart
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posted 06-22-2006 11:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for HansReinhart   Click Here to Email HansReinhart     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The moon rock at KSC is in the incredible Saturn V exhibit.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-22-2006 12:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kennedy Space Center has both a polished touchstone and a "raw" sample on display, both recovered by Apollo 17.

typist
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posted 08-11-2006 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for typist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After reading this thread, clearly I have come to the right place. I am a writer, working for a television show (investigative cop-type show) and am working on an episode about a heist of moonrocks. The links in this thread have been invaluable for tracking them down. But I had a few more questions I thought I would throw out to the group. Specifically relating to the AMOUNTS present.

Basically, I'm looking for a place where there is enough moonrocks worth...well, killing for. There also can't be anything else in the area that would be easier to steal. For example, it wouldn't make sense for me to go to all this trouble to break in someplace to steal 2 million dollars in moonrocks if there was 5 million dollars in something else there.

The second thing is this has to be in the Virginia area. Possible Maryland or North Carolina (as long as it's not too far from D.C.)

Finally, I'm looking for a Navy connection in some way. The stuff doesn't need to be at a Navy museum, per se, but in some way Navy personnel would either need to have access or even just exposure.

Thank you so much in advance for any help you can provide. — Steven

KC Stoever
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posted 08-11-2006 02:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by typist:
After reading this thread, clearly I have come to the right place.
Welcome to cS, Steven!

This is just off the top of my head. Other cSers with more accurate knowledge about moon rocks (since you're a writer, you could have prissy NASA types use the term 'lunar samples') and their locations and value might want to chime in.

If I recall correctly, a moon rock was incorporated into a stained-glass window at the National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C. I was there for the ceremony in the 1970s. Neil Armstrong presented the rock to the community. I can't think of a Navy connection there, except that Armstrong was a Navy-trained aviator before he became a civilian test pilot.

Al Shepard's moon rock is going to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, I believe. That's just an hour's drive from the Washington Cathedral. So maybe you could have a double heist. Or triple? Isn't there a moon rock at the NASM?

The heist could begin at the National Cathedral, proceed to the NASM, and then off to Annapolis.

You're on the water there and could make a getaway by boat.

ea757grrl
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posted 08-11-2006 02:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KC Stoever:
If I recall correctly, a moon rock was incorporated into a stained-glass window at the National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C. I was there for the ceremony in the 1970s.
You remember correctly!

It's one of many beautiful features (too many to count, actually) in one of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever visited.

typist
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posted 08-11-2006 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for typist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you both. That was really an amazing window.

Got a secondary question... any idea how one might FAKE a moon rock, i.e., I steal one - publicly and loudly - then try and sell multiple knock-offs to the highest bidder.

KC Stoever
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posted 08-11-2006 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The savvier collectors here should certainly be able to help you there with some scenarios. Good luck, and please let us know when the show will air. We'll look for cSers in the credits.

typist
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posted 08-11-2006 07:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for typist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I imagine they probably will be able to help - judging by what I read!

I did find a bit about something called JSC-1, a lunar simulant used for faking lunar dirt. Perhaps something similar could be done for rocks? Maybe if someone got a hold of some JSC-1 (unfortunately, from what I read, though, it's all gone...)

MCroft04
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posted 08-13-2006 04:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is no need to make fake mooon rocks; you can use rocks from earth as a surrogate. Basically there is little difference between moon rocks (which are all volcanic) and volcanic earth rocks, except the specific percentages of minerals which is not obvious to the naked eye. Just use some grayish-brownish earth basalts, or some plagioclase feldspar. By the way, the amount of moon rocks mentioned in previous threads (National Cathedral, etc) is very small. If you want large amounts of moon rock, you need to go to JSC.

typist
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posted 08-18-2006 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for typist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks MC... good info. Though I was hoping to create fakes that could withstand a more in-depth analysis than just the naked eye. The bad TV line being...

Guy does a few preliminary tests. "Well, I'll need to run more tests...but so far this looks like an actual moon rock."

Sure, a more in depth analysis will reveal it's not. But I want the fakes to be good enough fakes that they could pass more than just a naked eye test. I did some research. The cathedral rock is about grams. Not sure how much it's worth but I spoke to a retired NASA investigator and he said the Goodwill moon rocks (1 gram) are purportedly worth about 5 million on the black market...

thump
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posted 08-18-2006 02:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for thump   Click Here to Email thump     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Smithsonian Air and Space not only has the Apollo 17 moon rock that you can touch, but they also have a couple of others on display in the Apollo to the Moon gallery. Also, if my memory holds, the Smithsonian Natural History museum, accross The Mall from NASM, has at least 1 moon rock on display.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-18-2006 03:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steven, welcome to collectSPACE. I'm glad to read the steady stream of suggestions and replies to your intriguing set of questions.

Washington, DC is my previous home and moon rock capers are a particular and personal fascination of mine, so your script concept has me definitely interested. I am sorry I haven't been able to respond sooner.

It appears that most of the locales for moon rock material in the DC area have been covered, but to summarize and to add a few more:

  • The National Geographic Society is listed as having an Apollo 12 sample on display.

  • The National Air and Space Museum has five samples: the Apollo 17 touchstone; two encapsulated samples from Apollo 16 and Apollo 17; one glass encased sample from Apollo 15; and a soil display from Apollo 17. The touchstone is located in the main entrance Milestones of Flight gallery; the others are on display upstairs in the Apollo To The Moon exhibit.

  • The Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History has nine samples on display, all from Apollos 15, 16 and 17; four complete rocks exhibited behind glass; four thin sections; and one soil display.

  • The National Cathedral has a small rock recovered by the Apollo 11 astronaut embedded in a stained glass window.

  • During the Clinton Adminstration, there was a moon rock on display in The White House's Oval Office. It is not clear if it is still there under the Bush Adminstration.

  • Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland has a glass display of an Apollo 14 sample.

  • The Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton has a rock collected by the Apollo 17 astronauts displayed behind glass.

  • Wallops Flight Research Center has an encapsulated sample from Apollo 17.
In addition, and as Kris pointed out earlier, the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis may sometime in the near future have a sample of its own.

My personal choices for story telling and visual purposes would either be the National Cathedral or the touchstone at the National Air and Space Museum. In regards to the latter, there may be more expensive items inside the museum, but most won't fit through the doors (e.g. spacecraft, airplanes, etc.).

In regards to faking a rock, you could use JSC-1. I understand there were rocks made from the same material and on a cursory look, it would appear to be geologically similar to moon rock (enough so that chemists and geologists have used it as a stand-in for the real, very valuable thing). There's at least one company that sells such material.

Lastly, in regards to value, I see you have talked with our friend and sometimes contributor Joe Gutheinz. While I certainly don't disagree with him that a 1 gram sample might sell for upwards of $5 million if presented legally, I believe its value on a supposed black market would be less, maybe $1 to $2 million. Part of the allure of moon rocks is the ability to show it off, which, of course, would be impossible if it was stolen.

If I or collectSPACE can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me. Our contact information is listed here.

lewarren
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posted 10-09-2006 10:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lewarren   Click Here to Email lewarren     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by pokey:
...some of the moon dust was sprinkled on lab rodents' food by biologists to see if anything weird would happen.
All true. Cell lines, plants and animals were exposed to lunar dust in biocharacterization investigations. The lunar material was found to contain no potentially harmful agents.

Interestingly, some people that were repeatedly exposed to lunar dust in their jobs developed reactions similar to those seen in exposures to allergens. Perhaps it would be a good idea to "innoculate" future lunar explorers with moon dust...

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