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Moon Dust Back In NASA's Hands

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the my-precioussss dept.

Moon 73

gabbo529 writes with this excerpt: "It's only a speck but some moon dust from the original Apollo 11 mission is back in NASA's hands. The speck of moon dust was only one-eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) wide and was attached to a transparent piece of tape. To an auction house in St. Louis it was worth between $1,000 and $1,500. However, NASA got wind of the dust and was able to get it back."

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73 comments

$1000? (1, Funny)

Darth Hamsy (1432187) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567306)

How much is that in Bitcoins?

Re:$1000? (2)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567318)

At the current exchange rate, you'd end up paying them to take it. :p

Re:$1000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567398)

Actually, dumbass, it's about 60.6 bitcoins

Re:$1000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569038)

Someone's a bit butthurt over the recent BC events don't ya think?

Re:$1000? (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570822)

Butthurt? Why? Bitcoin's value dropped considerably, but before that it was on the up and up. Sure, if you owned a lot of bitcoins, their value went down. boo hoo. It'll go back up again and be where it was in just a few months, but you already know that, so just buy up as many as you can and you'll be fine.

Re:$1000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570948)

Whatever you have to tell yourself to justify all the time and electricity you wasted generating bitcoins there pal.

Caroline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567322)

Please bring me more pain pills.

As usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567330)

NASA is more interested in preserving its legacy than in actually going back to the moon or any manned mission more than 500 miles past the earth's atmosphere.

Re:As usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567354)

NASA is, and has always been, a fundamentally political animal. More people would complain if they got funding than will about how they spend their greatly reduced budget. Their failures are just a reflection of the failures of the society we've created, where taxes are a bad thing and imagination is in short supply.

Taxes ARE a bad thing (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567904)

Let me FTFY:

Their failures are just a reflection of the failures of the society we've created, where taxes are considered a good thing and imagination is in short supply.

When you think you can solve any problem by raising taxes and spending more there's no need for imagination. As president Eisenhower said, "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex". He said that in 1961, when NASA was less than three years old.

NASA was the result of that malign marriage, the military willing to spend tax money and industry willing to sell stuff to the military. In that context the scientific mission of NASA has always been in the background while the priority has always been either empty propaganda or facilitating military research.

Re:Taxes ARE a bad thing (2)

nhstar (452291) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568084)

Taxes, when spent appropriately and for a good goal are not a bad thing. And no, I don't mean in the "let's cure the world from stupidity" way.

And, as just one small part of what that background science didn't help with, think on that the next time you use your microwave to reheat leftovers, or your GPS gear without having to pay subscription rates for the satelite signal...

just sayin'

Re:As usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36572562)

So? Maybe it's because there's nothing to do out there? You know, it's a VACUUM after all. Do you geeks bellyache and cry that we don't go to the bottom of the ocean anymore or drill past 12km deep into the Earth? Apollo was a STUNT. The biggest, most expensive, most extravagant "nyanyanya" in history.

Moonstone rush? (4, Funny)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567434)

1 gram of Moonstone is worth $1000 ?! So... 1 kg is therefore worth $1M ??!!! How expensive is a space rocket and other things needed for aggresive Moon mining ?
/s

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567478)

Gold is almost $50 per gram, and I'm willing to bet that it's more than a factor of 20 cheaper to mine gold on earth, than it is to retrieve rocks from the moon.

Also, the market for moon rocks is fairly small, so the price will drop quickly if you get too much of it.

Re:Moonstone rush? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567522)

What is it like to live in a world without humour?

Re:Moonstone rush? (2)

malkavian (9512) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567654)

Look around you, every day...

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

cffrost (885375) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572664)

Bullshit; what about clown-fish? You wouldn't laugh if you saw a clown-fish right now?

clown-fish: Oy! ...blub... Oy you!... ...bloop...
malkavian: [not laughing] Piss off, wanker.

I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying it.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

cffrost (885375) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572802)

What is it like to live in a world without humour?

IMO, reasoned response(s) to possibly humorous/absurd statements compliment each other so as to improve the overall quality of the conversation. What's it like to live in a world where this effect doesn't occur?

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567608)

1 gram of Moonstone is worth $1000 ?! So... 1 kg is therefore worth $1M ??!!! How expensive is a space rocket and other things needed for aggresive Moon mining ? /s

A moon rocket is so expensive that only one country in the history of the world has ever built them, and they stopped after a few years when they realized no one was racing them anymore.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567638)

Actually, the Russians built several (unmanned) moon landers that have brought small amounts of samples back to earth.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568762)

A moon rocket is so expensive that only one country in the history of the world has ever built them, and they stopped after a few years when they realized no one was racing them anymore.

Except the hare decided to take a nap under the tree, because he was so far ahead of that slow tortoise anyway...

Who said the race was over? America != the whole world. In fact it's a tiny fraction of the world's population. And the whole world is catching up. Both India and China have their sights set on the moon. Of course the typical response from the American hare is "so, they're just duplicating what we did 50 years ago". Mmmhm. But in today's economy, paying today's prices for pretty much everything except labor (which is not exactly true, as we're talking highly skilled labor here). Plus the space program was never really about the moon itself- it was about organizing the industrial infrastructure to make a space program possible. Infrastructure that in the US has collapsed thanks to greed on the part of executives, mergers and, well, greed again on the part of stockholders.

Personally I think the hare is in a coma and isn't going to wake up any time soon.

Re:Moonstone rush? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569234)

But it isn't a race... you know why? We already have a finisher. If the race was to get to the moon, once somebody got to the moon, they don't need to get to the moon again to continue winning. We can have second or third place finishers.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569492)

What if you thought it was a 300 yard sprint and it turns out that the race was really a marathon? The US has given up and grown complacent. Enjoy. You reap what you sow.

Re:Moonstone rush? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36573604)

Why do you make it sound like space is this vital thing to the survival of your country? Russia's still in the space business, why don't you move there? China and India too! Oh wait, these are either third-world or gangster economies, almost as if space is entirely irrelevant to the health of a country...

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Crazy Taco (1083423) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570708)

Infrastructure that in the US has collapsed thanks to greed on the part of executives, mergers and, well, greed again on the part of stockholders.

I highly disagree with this statement. The only part that is true at all is the word greed, but not when it applies to stockholders. Try applying the word "greed" to farmers, welfare moms, ethanol producers, algae for energy researchers, medicaid recipients, and everyone else with a hand out taking a government subsidy, and then you will be getting close. A nation on the verge of bankruptcy with everyone refusing to give up their subsidies is a nation that can't afford a space program.

As far as the executives, stockholders, and private sector go, they are the ONLY Americans still pursuing the original dream. Whether it's Scaled Composites designing innovative new spacecraft for suborbital tourism, or Elon Musk's SpaceX designing the latest and best heavy lift rockets, the truly private sector (outside the military industrial complex) is the entity moving everything forward.

Re:Moonstone rush? (2)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569192)

1 gram of Moonstone is worth $1000 ?! So... 1 kg is therefore worth $1M ??!!! How expensive is a space rocket and other things needed for aggresive Moon mining ? /s

You need to spend some time reading the space technology news.

It turns out that getting into space is quite expensive. And getting stuff back from space is too.

In 2003, Russia was charging ~$20M for a person to stay on the ISS for 10 days. Getting back to the moon would involve redeveloping the technology and traveling further. So it might cost around $100M, but it would take billions of dollars to develop and proof the technology.

Also, once you brought back a ton of moon rocks to sell on the open market, their price would plummet due to availability. So traveling to the moon solely to sell moon rocks is not really a profitable venture.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572946)

Also, once you brought back a ton of moon rocks to sell on the open market, their price would plummet due to availability. So traveling to the moon solely to sell moon rocks is not really a profitable venture.

If you want to look at what a more "mature" market for extra-terrestrial minerals might be, try looking up the prices for people who are selling meteor samples. I'm not going to provide links because you can use your favorite search engine to find them.

Still, I've seen prices at roughly $1000/kg for random meteor samples, and for samples that seem to have a high likelihood of coming from Mars or the Moon the price is much higher. Yes, it is possible to have a piece of moon rock even now. A seven gram sample I saw that claimed to be from the Moon was being offered for sale for about $10k.

While going to the Moon and bringing back a shipping container sized collection of samples might drive down the cost, it would be at least one way to recoup costs for some of the early commercial missions to the Moon, which I think is sort of the point here. Lunar rocks will continue to be a novelty for some time, and since the cost of going to the Moon is going to remain high for some time there will be little incentive to charge less than at least the cost of going there and bringing the samples back. Only if a "cheap" method of delivery was created like a rail gun powered with solar energy and a simple vehicle design for bringing stuff through the atmosphere was created (for targeted delivery from space on the cheap) would lunar rocks be considered candidates for landfill projects.

Who knows? Perhaps some future highway project will be paved with moon dust instead of gravel from a terrestrial gravel pit. Regardless of the price, there will always be at least some demand for the stuff.

Bringing back historical artifacts from the Moon would likely always have considerable value as they can't be mass-produced and are very limited in quantity. Some of them are even supposedly in private hands already, like a Soviet rover that was purchased from the Russian government by Richard Garriott. If somehow he got that back to the Earth, I'm sure he could sell it for several million dollars. NASA would likely have a cow if somebody returned the American flags from the Apollo missions, however.

Re:Moonstone rush? (1)

rew (6140) | more than 2 years ago | (#36574234)

People are underestimating the (relative) difficulty of the different steps in "space travel".

A good measure of difficulty is the energy required to get there. To go up to "the edge of space" at 100km high you just need g.h per kg of of payload in energy. That comes to about 1MJ/kg.

To get into low earth orbit at 200km high, you need g.h for the height, but also 1/2 v^2 for the kinetic energy. This comes to 2MJ/kg + 28MJ/kg = 30MJ/kg. It is about 30 times as difficult to get into low earth orbit than to get to 100km.

Taking along enough "fuel tank" and "motor" to use this energy after you've burnt part of it is a serious problem.

Remember the math problems with trucks or camels that can carry only so much water or fuel and you want to travel into the desert? You need to go on one trip to make a stash of fuel along the way that you'll use on your final expedition. With space travel that's (almost) not possible. You'll have to take everything along in one go.

Now to go to the moon is again an order of magnitude more difficult. Getting back doubles the difficulty again!

Getting to another planet is similarly difficult as getting to the moon and back. Getting back from another planet is very difficult indeed.

Re:Moonstone rush? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36572652)

Um, what do you think will happen to the market once you have kilograms instead of grams? You know, Earth dust is from space too... You geeks and your pathetic '60s sci-fi delusions! So nostalgic!

AH so that's what (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567470)

Those NASA scientists are getting high on. Talk about going to extreme measures to protect their stash.

NASA owns all the moon dust. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567494)

There are no offenses and selling the speck would not have been illegal. Still, NASA wanted it back, since it is the space agency's possession. It was acquired by Regency-Superior from a woman who inherited from her late husband. Her late husband had acquired it in good faith.

So even if you acquire in good faith some legally distributed moon dust, it is still NASA's possession? Does this make any sense to anyone? It's almost like they're trying to prevent unauthorized research. ALL THE TOYS ARE MINE. It's like shaking a ditch digger down for some dirt that fell in to his cuffs while he was installing your sewage line.

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567576)

They seem alike because it's the exact same legal principle in application.

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567634)

They seem alike because it's the exact same legal principle in application.

Which principle? He who has more men with guns wins?

You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567628)

You can't own stolen goods, at least in my state, since the owner who it was stolen from still is the legal owner.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567666)

And yet the article itself, which you apparently did not read (shocker!) or perhaps did not understand (shocker pt. 2!) explicitly says that it would not be illegal to resell the scrap of rock in question. Therefore it is not stolen. Therefore you can own it, right? Well, apparently not.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

xkuehn (2202854) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567746)

Well, I DID RTFA.

Her husband acquired it in good faith; which only means that he got it from someone or somewhere and did not believe it to be stolen.

However, NASA owns it and it she therefore did not have the RIGHT to sell it, even if it would not have been a CRIMINAL OFFENSE for her to do so. Unless she knew that she doesn't own it, which she does now.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567764)

Take a mood moderator. You're wound up a bit tight twinkyboy.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

xkuehn (2202854) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568422)

You're right. It sounded a bit overenthusiastic.

No hard feelings towards anyone.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36584318)

Wait I'm confused, I thought twinkypoo was the ass who needed to take a breather here. Xkuehn was just being as reasonable as possible dealing with a nutter who was busy parading his inept social skills on slashdot.

Wait...never mind, just answered my own question.

Car analogy (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36567986)

it would not be illegal to resell the scrap of rock in question. Therefore it is not stolen

Just like if I buy a stolen Porsche at the local chop shop it becomes mine and I can sell it?

It is not a crime to resell something you bought in good faith, but that does not mean it becomes the legal property of the buyer. It still belongs to the original owner and it's up to those who bought it in good faith to try to recover from the thief whatever they paid for it.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570440)

Bad writing of an article. The dust was stolen in 1969, so selling it would be illegal. However because of various reason the federal government will not be pressing charges, so no illegal act was charged. It would also be hard to prove that the sellers were knowingly selling a stolen item.

Re:You can't own stolen goods .. (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36573014)

The funny thing is that the suits were taken in to get cleaned, where presumably had the sample not been collected with tape the dust itself would have simply been flushed down into the sewer. In a manner of speaking, these guys did a huge service to mankind simply by collecting the sample in this manner and perhaps should have been thanked instead of treated like criminals.

For some of the later Apollo missions, the suits were not cleaned and therefore the dust is still on the suit fabric, so it is still possible to do a mineral comparison with some of the other missions based upon the dust samples.

It apparently wasn't sold .. (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 2 years ago | (#36588558)

It apparently wasn't sold by NASA, so it was stolen, in a way, even if it probably only involved sneaking out the duct tape to which the dust was attached.
Case closed.

And no, I didn't read the article. Are you new to slashdot?

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567778)

All that dust is from Kansas - the moon landings never happened!

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568544)

So even if you acquire in good faith some legally distributed moon dust, it is still NASA's possession?

It is possible to buy stolen goods without realizing they are stolen, and thus acquire them in good faith (and thus not a crime), but the goods are still the property of whoever they were stolen from, and they have full legal entitlement to its return.

This is true even if the property is accidentally lost or misplaced by the owner - and the discoverer may not have any way of knowing who or where the property came from, thus also acquiring it in good faith. Again, it is not a crime to keep such goods if one is not aware of its origins, but the goods remain the property of whoever lost them, unless or until they either voluntarily surrender ownership, or a legal statute of limitations is reached since it was lost (if that is applicable), whichever comes first.

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569106)

the problem is that NASA does not want anyone triggering the growth of their own black monoliths since learning that they only grow from moon dust.

LoB

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570868)

Having actually gone into the clean rooms and vault where the lunar samples are kept at Johnson Space Center, I can attest to the fact that they take great care in preserving every single speck of lunar material they can, so yes, this does make sense. When lunar samples are sent to scientists for study, the scientists agree to return all parts of the sample that are not destroyed in the course of their research, including dust, fragments, or any other matter that they can collect. All of those are individually catalogued and kept separate from the other samples. Since we don't know when we'll be heading back to the moon, and the lunar samples are officially considered national treasures, it's no surprise that they go to such great lengths to preserve the samples.

Of interest, the reason I was in the vault at all was because the group I was interning was working on updating the decades-old database NASA used at the time for curating the lunar sample collection. The way that they tracked the samples seemed unusual to me at the time, but actually makes a good deal of sense. They began by individually identifying each sample that was brought back from the moon. For a given rock (let's call it "A"), if they break it, they then have A.A and A.B, effectively establishing a parent-child relationship between the two fragments that now exist and the original sample that they came from. Doing so allows them to track the origin of every single piece of lunar material. Even the dust is catalogued in a similar way, as I recall, though it's been quite awhile since that internship, so they may have updated their scheme since then or I may be mistaken slightly due to lapses in memory.

Anyway, bringing things back around, that sample should have been returned to NASA when the original holder of it died. That it wasn't was certainly not in good faith, since the property was not the husband's to pass on to the wife. It was merely in his possession. You can't own a national treasure.

Re:NASA owns all the moon dust. (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36572980)

Technically the person who collected this sample did not have "authorization" for the collection by NASA in the first place.

BTW, there are some meteors that have a high confidence of having come from the Moon, particularly when their mineral composition is compared with the Apollo samples. For stuff of that nature, your legal claim to the "Moon dust" is more more secure.

Sadly, if you dig a hole in your backyard, depending on where you live, you may not be able to claim the minerals that you find in that hole even if you made the effort to dig the hole and even if digging the hole itself was done for other legal purposes. I've heard of some diamond mines where workers do have to go through some extreme measures including sometimes a "full body cavity search" to make sure you aren't smuggling the gemstones out of the mine that somehow you were able to pick out by hand. It all is a matter of the size of the ditch and what policies are in place to deal with those doing the digging.

Cave Johnson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36567570)

I'm betting it was everyone's favourite CEO of Aperture Labs...

Public Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36568128)

It's good they managed to retrieve it before someone bought it and tried to ingest it.

I hear it's pure poison.

Wait (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568506)

This is the dust that NASA originally said wasn't moon dust/moon rocks in the first place, right? I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the lies nowadays.

It's theirs since they MADE it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36568570)

I know from a reliable, anonymous source that NASA has a secret patent on simulated moon dust (based on their best estimates of what it would be made of). They did this so no one could analyze the content independently in the future, when someone manages to REALLY land on the moon, and can compare their samples with NASA's fake ones. But you don't need to take my word for it, its so freakin' obvious that we didnt land on the moon, just look at those obviously faked photos with odd little glitches in them. biggest hoax in human history, but im sure one day one of the 100k or so people who participated in the hoax will finally speak out! (see, i know human nature, and that many people won't keep silent forever, just for a long time if they are very motivated, and dont care about money or fame, which of course most people dont).

Re:It's theirs since they MADE it (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#36568790)

Of course they have simulated Moon dust. They also have simulated Mars dust. However, it is not for creating hoaxes (It would be far easier to just land on the Moon, than to keep 100k people silent). No, they have simulated Moon and Mars dust so that they can test landers, rovers, excavators, etc. They even used some on the Mythbusters episode where they busted the Moon-Landing-Was-a-Hoax myth. But I guess that's the one you missed.

Re:It's theirs since they MADE it (1)

protektor (63514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571124)

It is not impossible to get large numbers of people to keep their mouth's shut under threat of national security and being thrown in jail in a deep dark hole. For an example see the Gulf of Tonkin incident that the CIA finally released documents about it being faked. Your talking about what 2 destroyers and several fighters worth of crew told to shut up and never say a word or go to jail basic forever. What about the stealth fighter and stealth bomber. The US government is really good at threatening people to keep their mouths shut.

Re:It's theirs since they MADE it (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#36589624)

CIA or NSA? Because if it is CIA, someone needs to correct the Wikipedia article.

Only 3mm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36571642)

Definitely not enough for portal conductor liquid.

Wait, wait, wait, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36572062)

They DROPPED THE CAMERA? At a fraction of earth gravity the camera just plummeted to the surface? What kind of horse/pony show are you trying to start, NASA?

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