Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rant #86: Rock and Rolling Away Somewhere Over the Milky Way

The space program has been devalued enormously since it went through its heyday in the mid-to-late 1960s to the early 1970s, but the latest story that has made the rounds shows just how much this program has fallen.

The discovery of a fake moon rock in the Netherlands' national museum brought to light the fact that most of the moon rocks that the U.S. distributed from both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 flights are unaccounted for all these years later.

More than 130 countries received gifts of lunar rubble from both of these the flights, Apollo 11 in 1969 and Apollo 17 three years later. Nearly 270 rocks scooped up by U.S. astronauts were given to foreign countries by the Nixon administration. But the whereabouts of some of the small rocks are unknown.

Some wound up in museums, while some ended up as the personal possessions of those in power at the time. Some have been auctioned off in the intervening years, and these auctions can bring bids in the six figures for these tiny stones, some no bigger than a grain of rice.

You can’t blame NASA or the Nixon administration for the lack of followup to these pieces of history; they were given to the countries as a goodwill gesture, to make them almost part of these lunar excursions, making them a world event, not just one for the U.S.

However, you would think that the countries would know what became of the rocks, especially since they are truly one of a kind since we haven’t gone to the moon in nearly 40 years.

If this happened to works of art, there would be an uproar that you could hear from one end of the earth to the other. But being that they are “only” moon rocks, the silence is deafening, even though they are pretty pricey.

I can’t believe that many of the countries which were given these rocks have no idea where they are today. To me, this is such a special gift that it should have never left the countries’ possession, but seemingly, due to independent research by a few entities, that is exactly what happened.

Heck, I chronicle my record collection better than these countries chronicled their moon rocks. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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