What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," poses in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. Gutheinz has long been dedicated to tracking down missing Apollo moon rock samples. (AFP / Loren Elliot)
Updated 16 June 2019

What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)

• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.

Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.

“Keep jumping in puddles,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. (Supplied)
Updated 21 June 2020

“Keep jumping in puddles,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says

  • Ithra Talks host renowned American scientist to speak on wonders of universe and the curiosity behind discovery

JEDDAH: Science fans in Saudi Arabia and the region tuned in to a talk about exploring the wonders of the world with one of TV’s favorite scientists on Saturday.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) held the second installment of its digital speaker series, “Ithra Talks” live on its YouTube channel with Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, planetary scientist and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

It was hosted by Ali Al-Bahrani of the Eureka Show podcast.

Topics in the session ranged from extraterrestrials, black holes, multiverses, COVID-19, education and curiosity. It included a debate on Star Trek vs Star Wars — Tyson is a true Trekkie who believes that the show made a real attempt to portray real physics — and the talk provided a glimpse into his world as a scientist and fan of pop culture.

His journey into the world of astrophysics began at the age of 9; he visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and couldn’t believe that the sky could hold billions of stars. He thought it was a hoax at the time but grew curious and has been “hooked ever since.”

“I realized the immensity of that (space) and I realized we didn’t know what came before the universe and what comes after. All these questions started coursing in my head and then I realized that we don’t have the answers to many of those questions. I wanted to be on the frontier anticipating the art of discovery,” he said.

A regular on talk shows as well as guest appearances on programs such as “The Universe,” “Hubble’s Cosmic Journey” and cameos on the CBS hit show, “The Big Bang Theory,” he also hosts a weekly show, “Star Talk.” During the science, pop culture and comedy show, he chats with celebrities and scientists on topics ranging from neuroscience to the DNA of world’s top athletes. The show is a way for Tyson to delve into the world of physics with a wider audience.

Co-hosted by comedian Chuck Nice, the show’s Q&A episode, “Cosmic Queries,” has received wide acclaim since its launch in 2009.

As part of the discussion, Tyson and Al-Bahrani spoke about education and current teaching approaches and how this differed from a decade ago. They touched on ways to keep a child interested and how to feed a curious mind: “Keep jumping in puddles,” have fun exploring the world and always keep in mind that today’s methods of communication have a more far-reaching effect than ever before.

Tyson spoke about the importance of allowing scientists to provide useful and life-saving recommendations as the COVID-19 pandemic affected the globe on an unprecedented scale. He weighed in by lightly mentioning that it was important to trust the facts and the people behind them as they have done extensive research in their fields.

The astrophysicist explained scientific happenings with wit, good humor and charisma while throwing comic jabs at conspiracy theorists. Tyson has helped science to regain its prominence at a time where many young minds have turned away from the beauty that is science.

Influenced by Carl Sagan and Isaac Newton, and as host of the hit series “Cosmos,” Tyson ended the talk answering viewer’s Q&A session on pop culture, adding science to the mix.

“You encounter a combination of needs that you haven’t before. This “out of balance” forces me to be more inventive about how to use my time,” he said.

Tyson concluded by saying that one of the keys to progress is to experiment, stay inquisitive and continue asking questions. “A scientist is a child who has never lost his curiosity into adulthood,” he said.

The talk can be found on Ithra’s YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHMf2WSOAag