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The Moon has been a hypnotic and alluring natural spectacle since the dawn of the earth, having a powerful influence over various aspects of the planet. But, many have wondered what sort of properties the Moon has in relation to its influence, and thanks to solar exploration we now have a better idea.
This natural enigma has been observed with increasing curiosity, which led to expeditions. Upon the return of these expeditions, humanity was gifted knowledge of not only our Moon but the entire solar system as a whole. This data arrived in rough sediment collections and Moon Rocks. So, what secrets does the Moon have to tell us?
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What are Moon Rocks?
These cosmic treasures form in shades of white and grey and include many basalts, breccias, and plutonic rocks from the highlands.
Some specimens such as the Genesis rock have been dated as approximately 4.1 billion years old, and its composition gives insight into the mysteries of our universe.
Moon rocks are samples of sediment collected from the moon during lunar expeditions. Types of rocks on the moon include basalt, anorthosite, breccia, and regolith. Rock samples collected from various areas on the moon all have distinguishing mineral compositions.
Apollo 11 astronauts collected over 840 pounds of lunar materials from 6 separate lunar sites, which equated to approximately 2,200 separate samples. They used an aseptic sampler, extension handles, and plastic bags to handle samples indirectly.
Lunar crust is made up of 98 – 99% plagioclase feldspar, pyroxene, olivine, and ilmenite, and 1 – 2% potassium feldspar, rutile, calcium phosphates, zircon, troilite, iron metal, and oxide minerals such as chromite and pleonaste.
Hydrous minerals have not been discovered on the moon to date, and the simplistic lunar mineralogy is telling of its authenticity.
Through the study of these lunar materials, some secrets as to the origins of the moon have been revealed – the biggest of which details surprising and eerie similarities to the Earth.
The oxygen isotopes trapped within the Moon’s crust matched those on Earth, which has led to multiple theories on how the Moon came to be.
The most feasible of these theories was the Giant Impact Theory. This theory claims that a Mars-sized planetary body, which scientists have named ‘Theia’, collided with Earth during our planet’s developing phase around 4.5 billion years ago.
This impact resulted in a young Earth absorbing Theia’s mass, creating a ring of debris that eventually accreted into the Moon. More studies are required to conclusively prove this theory, but scientists believe it to be plausible based on the research gathered thus far.
In addition to finding information relating to the age of the moon and surrounding planets, these samples were also quarantined with various species in order to determine whether a toxicity risk was present.
Animals such as paramecia, planarians, shrimps, oysters, house flies, and cockroaches were used during these experiments and were not harmed as a result of exposure to the rocks.
These moon rock samples are securely kept in nitrogen-filled cabinets and handled indirectly during data collection and research.
Since the first successful lunar expedition, NASA has collected far more specimens and has shared around 50,000 separate samples with 500 research labs in over 15 countries.
Can You Buy Moon Rocks?
Despite the fact that many individuals have claimed to have ownership of authentic Moon rocks, there are plenty of laws and regulations that prohibit this.
Since the only individuals who have access to these specimens are those who are involved in their collection and research, they should generally never end up in the hands of the public.
It is illegal for private citizens to own or buy any authentic Moon Rocks or related material. Lunar samples obtained on Earth through findings of crashed lunar meteorites are legal.
However, as with all valuable and sought-after items, they are auctioned and sold illegally. While some people manage to somehow attain Moon rocks from safes, some have resorted to scraping Moon Dust off of dirty space suits in order to sell it to the highest bidder.
Some resort to straight-up scamming people on top of already illegal trade. They often use other minerals and rock formations that have similar visual or physical properties and claim them to be Moon Rocks.
An example of this action was when the Dutch National Museum uncovered that a Moon Rock gifted to the Prime Minister by the United States was in fact petrified wood.
It’s still uncertain how exactly this happened, and no culprit for this particular event has been found.
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Can You Loan Moon Rocks?
So, it’s illegal to own a Moon Rock, illegal to sell a Moon Rock, and illegal to buy a Moon Rock. Does that mean the public has to rely solely on imagination while only lunar explorers and organizations experience the wonders of this find for humanity? No, it doesn’t.
You can loan Moon Rocks from the STFC and the NASA Astromaterials Curation Office. One can temporarily have experience with Moon Rocks for educational purposes, and specimens have been loaned to thousands of schools, museums, and outreach organizers.
Thanks to the STC Lunar Rocks and Meteorites Loan Scheme, countless people have been blessed with the chance to borrow the moon, and receive a private temporary experience with Moon Rocks. They also offer the loan of the Natural History Museum meteorites.
The STFC is the only authorized source for the loan of NASA Moon Rocks, lunar soil, and relative precious materials. However, loans are generally not made to private individuals, but to educational or scientific organizations within the United Kingdom.
Informative support is provided for varying ages along with Moon maps and photo slides, enabling groups to modify resources to suit their educational needs.
Moon rocks and lunar samples are also available for educational use by the NASA Astromaterials Curation Office, part of the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Directorate.
They sponsor the Lunar and Meteorite Sample Education Disk Program which makes samples available to educational institutions such as K – 12 schools, colleges, and universities, usually for a loan period of 2 weeks.
The program provides K – 12 school teachers with a 6 – diameter clear acrylic disk containing 6 samples of either Moon rocks or meteorites, each of which is paired with a thorough written and graphic description, a PowerPoint presentation CD, a teachers’ workbook, and additional printable materials for students. This is limited to schools based in the United States of America.
Colleges and Universities with a curriculum in geosciences are loaned 12 polished thin sections from the Lunar or meteorite sample collections.
The package includes teaching material and a sample disk embedded in acrylic, accompanied by 12 informative slides.
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Why is it Illegal to Sell Moon Rocks?
The House Representatives gave away moon rocks to 32 Apollo astronauts, as well as to family members of the team lost in Apollo 1.
This was done with a sole condition – they could not under any circumstances sell the rocks, and the moon rocks could only serve as a family heirloom, being handed down to family members. Two sets of Moon Rocks were also gifted to 135 Nations, the 50 states, and U.S provinces as a gesture of goodwill.
Apollo Moon Rocks are considered to be National Treasures, and therefore cannot be sold. Those found committing theft of government property face felonious charges and imprisonment. There are a small amount of Moon Rocks from the Soviet Luna missions, some of which are legal to auction.
Since it’s illegal for any private citizen to own any amount of Moon Rock unless directly gifted by NASA under a no-sale policy, it’s equally illegal to sell Moon Rocks.
Although, the penalties for the illegal selling and distribution of Moon Rocks are harsh, and undercover cops are frequently used to bust illegal Moon Rock suppliers.
Many of the few thousand lunar samples are temporarily loaned to museums for research purposes. However, this has often resulted in the moon rocks being stolen or lost.
Although it’s unclear how authentic Moon Rocks fall into the hands of citizens, it’s been assumed that there are thieves, black market organizations, and illegal crime rings involved. Law enforcement agents and undercover NASA investigators have been working to get to the bottom of it, and have made various related arrests.
In October 1998, a fingernail-sized Moon Rock originally gifted to Honduras by Richard Nixon was apprehended after a man tried to sell it to undercover cops for $5 million.
A woman was also arrested after attempting to sell a piece of Moon Rock to an undercover NASA investigator for $1.7 million.
In October 2000, a man in Arizona was arrested by FBI agents after he attempted to sell what he claimed were Moon rocks via the internet.
He was sentenced to 21 years of imprisonment, 3 years of probation, and 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty to the charges.
Both fake and authentic Moon Rocks are often sold at auctions for high values. Since so many Moon Rocks have been reported missing over the past few decades, it’s not surprising how many there are available for illegal sale.
Authorities continue to hunt down the source, and NASA maintains it has never provided individuals with specimens with the exception of publicized goodwill gifts under a no-sale agreement.
They have not publicly released knowledge on how these Moon Rocks are been illegally obtained. However, some arrests have led to the discovery of specimens that were previously reported missing.
Since the commencement of the lunar landings, research, and explorations, thousands of Moon Rocks and specimens have been stolen during shipments or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
NASA upholds that “Lunar material retrieved from the Moon during the Apollo Program is U.S Government property”. No Apollo moon rock or any amount of moon dust has ever been sold legally, and theft of such national treasure falls within the penalty grounds of theft of government property.
That being said, NASA does not have legal ownership of every single Moon Rock on Earth. There is a very small amount of Moon Rocks that were brought back after the Soviet Luna missions in the 1970s. Some, but not all, of these specimens have been made legal for auction.
TIP: Selling moon rocks is illegal. But what about taking rocks from nature? It is legal in many cases of course but not always. Learn more in this article:
Is it illegal to take rocks from nature? You Should Know This
How Much is a Piece of Moon Rock Worth?
In 2003, the federal government decided to put a price tag on some of its Moon Rocks, as a result of stolen Moon Rocks being returned to custody after a group of NASA interns stole an entire Moon Rock safe from a Johnson Space Center lab.
The monetary value of Moon rocks was previously assessed by NASA in 1973 and found to be around $50,800 per gram, which equates to over $300,000 per gram in today’s currency.
Despite the fact that Moon rocks and soil were valued at over $300,000 per gram by NASA, the price that one would pay for a moon rock is well over this figure.
For instance, 0.2 grams of lunar soil from one of the Soviet Lunar missions were sold for $442,500 in 1993. This is well over NASA’s original monetary value of $300,000 per gram, and $442,500 per 0.2 grams equates to around $2.2 million per gram as opposed to $300,000 per gram.
There is little data on the illegal sale history of Moon rocks due to anonymous auctioning and black market sales. The potential monetary value in terms of what one might pay in order to own a piece of the Moon cannot be determined, but it is estimated to be well over NASA’s value assessment.
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Why Are Moon Rocks so Expensive?
Despite the fact that the mineral composition of various types of Moon Rocks is fairly similar to the Earth, often made up of common elements such as oxygen, iron, silica, and calcium, Moon Rocks are incredibly valuable.
So, why is this the case for a rock that has such common elements within its composition?
With it being illegal to buy and sell Moon rocks, and quite difficult for the public to get their hands on Moon Rocks, the value is understandably high. People want what they cannot have, even if there is no specific reason for it, and this is ultimately what makes Moon Rocks so valuable.
The high value of Moon rocks is based on the basic rule of supply and demand. High demand and low supply equal a high value regardless of the reason, the materials it’s made of, or how it’s obtained.
The most valuable aspect of Moon rocks is the secrets they hold the key to – the information they hold within themselves regarding the origins of the Moon and our universe.
Information like this can be collected by researching age, dating specimens, etc. However, this is only really applicable to researchers and scientists who have the knowledge and amenities to actually benefit from this.
Most people who want to buy Moon rocks – most likely illegally – do not purchase them for the sake of knowledge or research. People would pay millions just so they can say that they own a piece of the Moon, while the predominant portion of the Earth’s population has never even seen a Moon rock.
Moon rocks are so expensive because that’s the result of human choice and desire created. These cosmic materials are not made of gold or diamonds, and only some samples contain rare minerals. Moon rocks are alluring and desirable because they do not come from Earth.
TIP: Moon rocks are one of the most expensive rocks. On the other hand, you can find really cheap gemstones, especially when you browse the internet. Why is that so? Check out the most common reasons in the article below:
Why Are Some Gemstones So Cheap? You Should Know This
Where Can You Touch a Moon Rock?
There are 10 available touchstones, all of which belong to Apollo lunar sample class 70215. These were discovered to belong to a group of Moon rocks containing titanium and rare Earthly elements and were collected in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, which is located on the edge of the Sea of Serenity in the upper right quadrant of the Moon.
One of the most popular exhibits is the Lunar Touchstone, which is held at NASA Headquarters Starship Gallery in Washington, DC. This is a 3.8 billion-year-old sample that was brought back by Apollo 17 in December 1972.
The Touch Rock in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC is extremely popular.
This particular Moon Rock is a piece of basalt, an iron-rich volcanic rock, was the very first touchable Moon Rock exhibit and was put on display when the museum was opened in 1976.
The museum at the Johnson Space Center has a moon rock exhibit that can touch one of the Apollo lunar samples. This rock has also been smoothed down by all of the fingertips that have interacted with it. More touchstones are held at Space Center Houston in Texas and Museo de las Ciencias de la UNAM in Mexico.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, FL, has a slice of Moon rock that can be touched by visitors. A touchstone is also on display at Geoscience Australia, Museon in the Netherlands, Montreal Science Center, and Macmillan Space Center in Canada.
These exhibits have brought joy and wonder to millions of adults and children, giving them a brief opportunity to experience something truly out of this world.
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