NASA Busts Woman Selling a Moon Rock for $1.7M at Denny’s

May 24, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team

Here’s another ecommerce oddity you didn’t think you could put into your shopping cart — a piece of the moon! It seems these days anyone can put just about anything on eBay’s ecommerce software platform (from Justin Bieber’s hair to a man’s entire life) leading one Southern California woman to think that she could freely sell a moon rock to the general public.

If only stealing a piece of the moon were this easy…

The bust went down when the unsuspecting eBay seller agreed to meet at a Denny’s restaurant off the highway of Lake Elsinore, CA with an undercover NASA agent posing as a potential buyer. Upon agreeing on one hefty price tag of $1.7 million and verifying the physical existence of the rock, the undercover agent called in a NASA team, and with the aid of Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, immediately took her into custody.

The woman remains unidentified while NASA investigates whether or not the rock she had in her possession is in fact real, forensics would have to reveal traces of armalcolite, a mineral first discovered on the moon. From there, the police can determine whether or not to charge her for fraud or theft.

The big NASA sting is part of an investigation relating to over a few decades ago when the astronauts of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions to the moon brought back the first moon rocks. The Nixon Administration gave many of these rocks (approximately 270 from the Apollo 11 mission and 134 from the Apollo 17 mission) to foreign countries, as well as distributed them to all 50 U.S. states. Of the 270 moon rocks to date, approximately 180 are currently unaccounted for. The search for the missing moon rocks still rages on.

The mystery of the missing rocks has been a tantalizing tale where they have periodically resurfaced onto the international black market for millions of dollars; however, no one has been so bold as to shop a piece of the moon on eBay (one of the world’s most visible ecommerce software platforms)!

Back in June 2002, three college interns used their NASA IDs to enter the Johnson Space Center late at night to remove a 600 lb. safe containing approximately 101 grams of moon rock samples. They tried to sell the pieces on the web for up to $5,000 a gram and were caught and convicted.

In 2003, a Florida businessman attempted to sell to undercover agents what turned out to be the stolen 1.142 gram moon rock, originally presented to Honduras, for $5 million.

Other moon rock mishaps include a variety of national and international unsolved cases including a 2006 heist where a Virginia education specialist, employed by NASA, reported that someone broke into her van and stole a collection of NASA moon rocks. The rocks were in a safe that was bolted to the van and to this date, have yet to be recovered.

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No comments

  1. Hi Michelle,

    This is a great article. Thank you for sharing. I actually wrote a short story about this, entitled “The Moon Rock Thief”, about a Nigerian scientist at NASA who is lured back to his homeland–provided he takes something with him. It’s the first chapter of a Pushcart prize nominated longer work. Crazy that something I had imagined would turn out to be partially true!

    I just uploaded the short story onto the Kindle store.

    Hope you enjoy it.


  2. Excellent article! All of those moon rocks belong to the taxpayers who financed the Apollo missions and no individual should be permitted to claim ownership of them.

    I saw my first Apollo moon rock in 1969, only three months after Apollo 11 made history as the first human mission to land on the moon. The lunar rock samples were touted as the most valuable rocks on earth- and they still are.

    Most of the rocks shared with researchers or presented as gifts to foreign governments were actually fragments that had been chipped or sawed off of larger samples that were brought back by the astronauts. The bulk of lunar samples are still stored in sealed, inert gas-filled chambers at the Johnson Space center in Houston.

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