Moon Rock Turns Out to be Fake

Sep 01, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Moon Rock
Astronauts who landed on the Moon collected 2,415 samples of Moon rocks weighing a total of 842 pounds (382 kilograms). Most of these rocks were collected during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. Image Credit: NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Dutch national Rijksmuseum made an embarrassing announcement last week that one of its most loved possessions, a moon rock, is a fake -- just an old piece of petrified wood that's never been anywhere near the moon.

The Rijksmuseum is famous for its fine art collections, especially paintings by Rembrandt and other masters. One of its lesser known objects, the "moon rock", was first unveiled in October 2006 as the centerpiece of a "Fly me to the moon" exhibition. At that time, the museum said the rock symbolized the "exploration of the unknown, colonization of far-away places and bringing back of treasures..." A reading about the "moon rock" was even held on October 7 because it was a full moon!

The rock was given as a private gift to former prime minister Willem Drees Jr in 1969 by the U.S. ambassador to The Netherlands, J. William Middendorf II, during a visit by the , Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin, soon after the first . Drees had been out of office for 11 years, but was considered an elder statesman.

When Drees died in 1988, the rock was donated to the Rijksmuseum, where it has remained ever since. According to a museum spokeswoman, Ms Van Gelder, no one doubted the authenticity of the rock because it was in the prime minister's own collection, and they had vetted the acquisition by a phone call to NASA.

According to an article published by the Rijksmuseum, at one time the rock was insured for approximately half a million dollars, but its actual value is probably no more than around $70.

Former U.S. ambassador, Mr Middendorf was unable to recall the exact details of how the rock came to be in the U.S. State Department's possession. It is known that gave lunar rocks to over 100 countries in the 1970s, but when the rock was displayed in 2006 a space expert told the museum he doubted any material would have been given away so soon after the manned lunar landing.

Researchers from the Free University of Amsterdam immediately doubted the rock was from the moon, and began extensive testing. The tests concluded the rock was petrified wood. U.S. embassy officials were unable to explain the findings, but are investigating.

Even though the tests found the piece is not of lunar origin, the Rijksmuseum curators say they will keep it anyway as a curiosity.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 10

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ThomasS
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
I smell a diplomatic dispute over this one ;)
NameIsNotNick
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
I figure about 100 countries will be investigating the authentically of their Gift from the USA ;-)
googleplex
3 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2009
IMHO not a diplomatic faux pas.
What makes you think NASA made a mistake. I see it far more likely that a maintenance worker swapped the moon rock for a fake then sold the real one on the black market. Think about it ... who stands to gain and who has the motive.
Velanarris
3 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2009
I see it far more likely that a maintenance worker swapped the moon rock for a fake then sold the real one on the black market. Think about it ... who stands to gain and who has the motive.
The market on black market blocks of silicate must be booming then.

What probably happened was a diplomat made an offer he couldn't live up to and covered up for himself by grabbing somethign fromt he backyard and having a buddy at NASA cover for him.
N_O_M
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
The Moon-Hoax conspiracy theorists are going to love this.
docknowledge
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
How do they know its not petrified wood from the moon?
defunctdiety
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
How long before we see other countries, who were gifted petrified-moon-wood, running analyses of their rocks? I hope soon... this could get kind of funny if it's not an isolated incident.
Truth
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
Actually, there's a guy here in Bithlo, Florida who sells "moon rocks" real cheap to unsuspecting tourists. I seem to remember that Ambassador Middendorf once came 'round here on vacation....
zevkirsh
not rated yet Sep 06, 2009
ill tell you that this piece of wood is now more interesting and valuable as the subject of a decades old hoax then it was as a moon rock. i hope it fetches a pretty penny. it will go down as the hoax of hoaxes, besting even the largest most intricate crop circle phenomena, bigfoot, or global warming .
N_O_M
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2009
it will go down as the hoax of hoaxes
Hardly. Either a diplomat or a politician was fooled. Neither would have known enough science to know they were being conned.

And just for any conspiracy theorists. If they faked the missions, the last thing they would have done was give away obviously fake samples. They would have used meteorite samples, or made some artificial rock that couldn't be proved wrong.