Some news just seems to be out of this world, and a story which emerged about the whereabouts of several 'moon rocks', thought to have been destroyed years ago, certainly falls into this category.
When legendary Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969, they collected 'dust' which was then studied by scientists back on earth. These fragments, most of which are tiny, were handed out as goodwill gestures to different American states, and foreign countries, after they had served their purpose.
On one such occasion in 1969, President Richard Nixon gave some of these rare rocks to Alaska. They were often presented in small capsules mounted on plaques.
They were displayed proudly at Alaska State Museum in Anchorage, but were thought to have been destroyed when a fire, started deliberately as arson, burned the building down in 1973.
This is where the story takes an odd twist, as it turns out that the rocks do still exist. They were found by a teenager, Arthur C. Anderson, in the debris after the incident. Now he claims he is the rightful owner, and has even filed a lawsuit against the State of Alaska to prove it.
The strange case come just one week after another, this time involving NASA, in which the agency stopped a former Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, from selling a unique camera that was actually used on the moon.
Indeed, memorabilia connected to NASA and Apollo missions is often subject to controversy because of the debates over who actually 'owns' these items. This case echoes that which enveloped Regency Superior Auctions recently.
The company offered a piece of camera film which had moon dust on it, consigned in good faith, and NASA disputed it. The 'owner' graciously conceded it. The utterly unique nature of a lot of these pieces means that they are highly valued by collectors and investors alike, and some moon rocks have been estimated to be worth about $5m.
Even other items, like those signed by astronauts or containing their autographs, can sell for many thousands. The most sought after is of course Neil Armstrong's, not just for being the first man on the moon, but also because he doesn't do them anymore. According to the PFC40 autograph index, the value of a photo signed by him has risen by 981.8% since 2000.
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