Lunar rocks are a controlled substance

200907200927 US law forbids private citizens from possessing any of the 842 pounds of moon rocks collected by astronauts and brought back to Earth.

Nevertheless, the allure of moon rocks is strong enough to have created a black market where moon rock fragments and dust are sold for astronomical prices.

One way to obtain a moon rock is by purchasing a plaque that the US government sometimes gives to famous people and to politicians from other countries. They contain tiny slivers of moon rock. Some of these gifts have drifted into the collectors' market. A 1998 CNN article, "Customs agents seize 4-billion-year-old moon rock," reported that a Florida man was arrested for trying to sell a "fingernail-sized moon rock, weighing barely more than a gram" for $5 million. The rock was originally given to the Honduran government in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon:

Customs agents, postal inspectors and NASA launched "Operation Lunar Eclipse" in September with an advertisement in USA Today seeking moon rocks, officials said.

A Florida man identified as Alan Rosen called to offer a moon rock for sale. He told undercover agents he had bought the rock from the retired Honduran military officer, officials said. Agents viewed the rock at a suburban Miami bank and seized it on November 18, officials said.

Walter Cronkite got one of these plaques in 2004. Now that he is dead, I wonder where it will end up?

There's also an underground market in moon dust taken from dirty spacesuits. From a 1993 Omni article:

Upon the Apollo astronauts' return from each mission, NASA shipped the spacesuits to their manufacturer for inspection. According to unpublished accounts, workers sometimes ran loops of scotch tape across them, picking up small amounts of moon dust.

One of those moon-dust tapes, purportedly made off of an Apollo 14 lunar spacesuit, showed up in a for-sale newspaper ad early in 1992. A man named Steve Goodman had found the tape among the papers of his late father, whose company manufactured spacesuits. After consultation with Goodman and his lawyer, NASA decided it wasn't worth the effort--or the bad publicity--to confiscate the contraband moon-dust sample.
According to Antiques Roadshow, Christie's sold a moondust-on-tape sample for $300,000.

Also from Antiques Roadshow:

At a Superior Galleries sale in Beverly Hills in October 2000, one lucky collector named Florian Noller spotted a bag used to store artifacts collected on the moon that was taken from the Apollo 15 command module Endeavor. He bought the bag for $2,300. When Noller looked inside the bag, he found a previously unnoticed sprinkling of moon dust along its seams. He put scatterings of dust on little thumb-sized white cards and placed them on photos of astronaut James Irwin saluting the American flag, and then sold them in 2001 through Spaceflori, the German space memorabilia dealer he formed. Compared to the Irwin patch, this serendipitous moon dust was a bargain: the 12 larger cards sold for $2,495, the 50 smaller ones for $995.
One perfectly legal way to own a moon rock is by finding or buying a lunar meteorite. Here's a New Scientist video (and article) on how to tell if a rock is from the moon:


Moon-Rock-Bit eBay currently has five auctions offering moon rock meteoritese. The one shown here has a Buy It Now price of $34.90 and is guaranteed by the International Meteorite Collectors Association to be authentic.

My favorite is this "Rare Moon Rock 'Metal' Piece" selling for $2000:

Moon Rock Metal MOON ROCK "METAL"

I'M NOT SURE HOW TO EVEN DESCRIBE THE ITEM.

A GENTLEMAN OWNED A METAL BUSINESS IN THE MIDWEST BACK IN THE 70's & 80'S, ONE OF HIS CUSTOMERS SENT HIM THESE PIECE WITH AN UNUSUAL REQUEST.

HE WANTED THIS PIECE OF MOON ROCK "METAL" MELTED DOWN & PUT INTO ONE OF HIS BATCH OF STEEL.

I'M NOT SURE OF THE REASON IT NEVER GOT DONE BUT HERE IT IS ON EBAY.

COMES WITH CERTIFIED LETTER WITH THE DATES OF THE REQUESTED WORK TO BE DONE. THE NAMES HAVE BEEN "DIGITALLY "WHITED OUT TO PROTECT THE NAMES..

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  1. Brainspore kind of beat me too it.. Has anyone tried snorting or smoking or shooting this stuff? Perhaps it gives the ultimate high hence it being on the controlled substance list..

  2. How can the Govt both say it is illegal for private citizens to own it and also give it to private citizens like Cronkite? Do they have an Oscar like repurchase agreement with whomever they give it to?

  3. Hello Darren — Thank you for these links.

    It seems like you didn’t read my entire post. I wrote, “One perfectly legal way to own a moon rock is by finding or buying a lunar meteorite.”

    Did you miss that?

  4. We should spread a rumor among Chinese apothecaries that moon dust makes older men capable of maintaining rock-hard boners.

    There would be a mining operation up there within a year, and it would take the pressure off of endangered species.

  5. According to comments from the astronauts who landed on the moon, moon dust has a sort of ‘gunpowdery’ smell. It is also so fine it got into everything; by the end of the expedition, there was probably a fine layer over the entire LM.

    Just because the guy thought this was a chunk of metal from the moon doesn’t make it so. AFAIK, no lunar samples, either from meteorites or collected by astronauts, have free metal in them. OTOH, I have chips of meteorites that have been analyzed as coming from both the Moon and Mars (not at the same time :)), so you can buy them legally. The two links Darren provided are for legitimate dealers who sell meteoric material. Another link for articles about meteorites and dealers is: http://www.meteorite-times.com/

  6. Mark– what I was replying to your showing only 5 auctions on Ebay for lunars, when there are actually quite a bit more than five when you look for “lunar” or “moon” on the meteorites/tektites area of Ebay and not just plug in “moon rock.” Hence, my suggestion for better key words.

  7. I have a piece of the Zagami Meteorite – the largest Mars-originated meteorite – in my wedding band. It looks like dark concrete, but I get to wear a piece of Mars every day of my life.

  8. A law? And it only concerns those 842 pounds? Can anyone tell me why, because if they want to keep the rocks for themselves they could just stop giving them away.

  9. Has anyone tried snorting or smoking or shooting this stuff? Perhaps it gives the ultimate high hence it being on the controlled substance list..

    Given the description of the particles as being rather jagged, you would probably be more likely to contract silicosis than get high…

  10. count on it. In a few generations time it will be a common disease among those that can’t afford good quality filtered air. Lousy rock rats.

  11. Here’s a New Scientist video (and article) on how to tell if a rock is from the moon[…]

    That’s easy: Expose it to moonlight and see if it beeps.

  12. On the moon nerds get their pants pulled down and they are spanked with moon rocks. Tell em Err sent ya.

  13. Darren @19, that was fascinating. But what the HELL was done to the article text? It’s like it was translated to a foreign language and back again. Half the words have been switched with synonyms of homophones. They stole a 1-tone innocuous? WTF?

    Here’s the original, IN ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGE
    http://gizmodo.com/5242736/how-an-intern-stole-nasas-moon-rocks

    But still, thanks so much for bringing that to my attention!

  14. If you read the letter, it is just metal that has been on the moon. It looks like a bit of scrap aluminum. If it was ever on the moon then it would have been part of some equipment.

  15. Walter Cronkite gave his moon rock to the Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin in 2006 [http://www.cah.utexas.edu/news/press_release.php?press=presscronkpr]. It really is quite lovely…

  16. Well, whatever the provenance of the piece of ‘moon metal’, it looks like the auction was closed.

  17. THE NAMES HAVE BEEN “DIGITALLY “WHITED OUT TO PROTECT THE NAMES..

    Please file this with the Department of Redundancy Dept.

  18. A moon rock from NASA will be going on public display next year at the National Mining Museum in Leadville Colorado.

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