The New Stuff

Woman Attempts To Sell Moon Rock For $1.7 Million

LOS ANGELES, California ~ (AP) ~ A woman who tried to sell an alleged piece of the moon for $1.7 million was detained when her buyer turned out to be an undercover agent from NASA, according to officials.

NASA investigators and Riverside County Sheriff's deputies detained the woman after she met Thursday with an undercover NASA investigator at a restaurant in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The investigation into the shady transaction had been ongoing for several months; authorities swooped in on the woman when she actually pulled out the rock after agreeing on a price. Authorities from NASA have not released her identity as she has not yet been formally charged.

NASA plans to conduct tests to determine whether the rock came from the moon as the woman claimed. “We don‘t know if it’s lunar material,” said Gail Robinson, Deputy Inspector General at the space agency. Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Arizona instructor and former NASA investigator who has spent years tracking down missing moon rocks, said a lunar curator at a special lab at Johnson Space Center would carry out the testing. Gutheinz said the woman could face theft charges if the rock is genuine, or fraud charges if it is not. Among the substances the rock could contain is armalcolite, a mineral first discovered on the moon and named for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who was on the Apollo 11 lunar mission crew.

About 2,200 samples of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust — weighing about 840 pounds — were brought to Earth by six out of seven of NASA’s Apollo lunar landing missions from 1969 to 1972. A recent count showed 10 states and more than 90 countries could not account for their samples. NASA houses 70 percent of its lunar rock and soil samples at Johnson Space Center in Houston, and another 14 percent are in New Mexico. The rest are either on loan for study or display, or are unaccounted for. Gutheinz said most purported moon rocks for sale turn out to be terrestrial-based fakes. In 2009, the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands confirmed that one of its rocks was a fake and not a lunar artifact, and a rock presented to Honduras was recovered in a 1998 NASA sting after a Miami collector offered $5 million for it.

Photo credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Recently Published


Short film shows what 'District 9' would look like in an 8-bit world

The aliens of District 9 take on a new form, this time as video ...


Quicksilver's bonkers 'X-Men: Apocalypse' rescue, deconstructed

LOS ANGELES — A month and a half of shooting. A handful of ...


'I will continue to stand on my feet': Alicia Machado responds to Trump's tweetstorm

Alicia Machado won't let Donald Trump have the last word with a ...

article image

People are inserting Donald Trump's sex tape comment into previous presidential speeches

There's a first for everything. On Friday morning, Donald Trump ...

article image

Facebook tests Messenger 'My Day' in another swipe at Snapchat Stories

Facebook's quest to be more Snapchat-like is far from ...


McDonalds releases pumpkin spice fries because our obsession knows no limits

Pumpkin spice is a rapidly expanding, ruthless empire, and everyone ...


Childhood continues to die: The 'Mrs. Doubtfire' house is now on sale

It's a tough time for Hollywood real estate. Following the announced ...


Adventurer Johnny Strange to be remembered with skateparks in Malibu and Bhutan

When Johnny Strange was 4 years old, he told his father he could ...


The Unicorn Café is the stuff of a child's imagination

Bangkok's Unicorn Café looks like the type of magical haven ...