How much is a Moon rock worth?

Although President Richard M Nixon's administration is remembered mainly for its controversies, during his five years in office (1969-1974), 12 American astronauts walked on the Moon.

During this time, under the orders of the Nixon administration, 398 Moon rocks - so-called "Goodwill Moon rocks" - were gifted to states within the US and foreign nations.

But, as we have previously reported, many of the "Goodwill" rocks have since gone missing.

Today, the locations of only 25 of the 135 rocks retrieved by Apollo 17 are known, while fewer than a dozen of the 134 rocks brought back by Apollo 11 can be accounted for.

NASA has suggested 10 ounces of Moon rock could be worth
$1m, but the figure is uncertain

However, earlier this week, progress was made when the missing lunar fragments gifted to Hawaii were accidentally found - while the Hawaiian governor's office was performing an annual gift inventory.

"We knew they were here," insisted Lenny Klompus, senior adviser to the governor, as quoted in local newspaper the Honolulu Advertiser.

"We just weren't sure which cabinet they were in."

That the Hawaiian authorities didn't know the exact location of its Moon rocks is remarkable given their estimated value: around $10m on the black market.

"NASA has had Moon rocks stolen from it, nations have had Moon rocks stolen from them; they've been stolen from museums..." - Joseph Gutheinz, former NASA senior special agent

The truth is that Hawaii's state officials are unsure of the Moon rocks' true value. What's more, even NASA itself seems confused over their estimated worth.

Over the years, NASA's figure has varied, from $55m an ounce in 1970 to $1m for 10 ounces in 2003.

When the respected news agency the Associated Press reported on the theft of a lunar rock stolen from the Museum of Natural History in Malta, it estimated the 1.4 gram piece's value at $5m.

Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan
Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan was among
those who retrieved the Moon rocks

Nevertheless, an auction is taking place at the weekend which will hopefully shed light on these conflicting values.

A fragment taken from perhaps the youngest Moon meteorite known to have struck the Earth, "NW2727", will sell at Heritage's Natural History auction, on January 17.

The rock contains two unusual materials: Olivine Gabbro and Mare Basalt. Mare Basalt is from lava "seas" formed on the moon billions of years ago, whereas the Olivine Gabbro formed deep under the moon's surface.

It is thought that a particularly massive meteorite strike may have sent it hurtling towards Earth.

The 12.68g chunk of Moon rock will go under the hammer with an estimate of $25,000-30,000, after which its market value will hopefully be revealed.


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Images: Heritage Auction Galleries and NASA

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