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NASA Sting Busts Woman Selling Purported Moon Rock 161

Posted by timothy
from the it's-her-perfect-right dept.
sgcxf949 writes "Woman attempts to sell a moon rock and gets busted by NASA. Who would have thought that NASA had undercover agents?" Evidently not the subject of this story, who offered to trade her sample of alleged lunar rock for $1.7 million.
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NASA Sting Busts Woman Selling Purported Moon Rock

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  • by DWMorse (1816016) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:46PM (#36274854) Homepage
    How do you steal moon rock? I hear it's a great conductor for making Portals, though.
    • by Noughmad (1044096)

      Yes, and all this time we thought that holes on the moon were craters...

    • How do you steal moon rock?

      The moon isn't exactly hard to find. It's right up there. Just go, break off a piece, and come back. :P

    • Science labs aren't the world's best guarded places, and one of the thefts mentioned in the article was the theft of a safe from a lab.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        one of the thefts mentioned in the article was the theft of a safe from a lab.

        We had that happen - sort-of - once. Had a safe in the office weighing around a half-ton, which the burglars dragged out into the middle of the workshop and evidently spent a lot of effort and time trying to chisel and hack and hammer their way into, to no avail. They eventually left with a few thousand pounds worth of laptops, probably when the early-start company on that street had people arrive for work.

        Of course, the safe was

    • by santax (1541065) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:18PM (#36275090)
      RTFA! Sjezus. NASA previous shipped the rocks via mail. It got stolen. They are still searching for those missing parts since it had cost them about 50.000 per gram to get the rock here.
    • by e9th (652576)
      It's not just the Feds you can steal them from. From TFA:

      ...with the exception of two sets of goodwill gifts presented to 135 nations, the 50 states, and the U.S. provinces

      According to this week-old story [yahoo.com]

      A recent count showed 10 states and more than 90 countries could not account for their shares of the gray rocks.

      • by baegucb (18706)

        You made me actually RTFA, to see if the "U.S. provinces" meant I'd missed the annexation of Canada somehow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Who would want em? Pure poison.

      --Cave Johnson

  • by Radak (126696) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:51PM (#36274884) Journal

    Eh NASA? wink wink, nudge nudge.

  • Although certainly, such pieces might not be distinguishable from other meteorites without extremely careful analysis.

    Not that I'm saying I support what this woman is saying... in all probability, the story she's made up is complete fabrication - and even if it isn't, then she'd be in possession of stolen property, whether knowingly or not.

    But certainly, it's not impossible to privately own pieces of the moon... just very unlikely that you'd know it even if you did.

    • It is possible to own them if they fell to Earth; however, as you said, rocks of this origin are very rare. The vast majority of them came from samples taken during the Apollo missions. While they have been distributed as gifts, some have been stolen. It is more likely that this rock is one that has been stolen rather than one fallen to Earth.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Someone else posted that 90 of the moonrocks given away to other countries can't be currently located. Given the rules for selling government property may be lax in other locations, how can you be sure it must be stolen?

      And what did they sting her for? Fraud? Then they'd need proof it was fake. Theft? They'd have to prove she stole it or at the very least prove it was stolen at some point in the past. At this point, she is apparently being detained without being arrested or charged. Yay constitution
      • by mark-t (151149)

        It's actually entirely feasible to prove or disprove that the rock is actually from the moon, by subjecting it to a detailed chemical composition analysis.

        However, the only way property ownership can legally be transferred in a way that is recognized within the USA is by consent of the party that has jurisdiction over the property. If the property is lost, then the property cannot ever legally belong to anyone else, and if it is ever discovered to be so, then the possessor of it actually has stolen pro

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          However, the only way property ownership can legally be transferred in a way that is recognized within the USA is by consent of the party that has jurisdiction over the property. If the property is lost, then the property cannot ever legally belong to anyone else, and if it is ever discovered to be so, then the possessor of it actually has stolen property, whether they know it or not.

          Since the property was sent to over 100 foreign countries, applying USA property laws to all foreign samples would be silly. Not to mention that of the 100 or so samples that can't be accounted for, there's no proof that it wasn't sold or transfered from the proper holder. The fact that they have no idea where it is indicates incomplete or inaccurate records. So arresting someone because you think that somewhere (likely out of your jurisdiction) someone may have stolen something, but you don't know what

          • by mark-t (151149)

            Applying US property laws to all foreign samples *WOULD* be silly... if the property did not find its way back into the USA.

            Secondly... none of the countries that formerly had a moonrock and have since lost it have ever indicated to the USA that their lost moonrock, should it ever be found, should *NOT* be considered stolen property... since the default would be that it is, unless the government had given consent... something else that they would need to inform the USA about, in the event that the rock s

            • by AK Marc (707885)

              Also.. had you ever considered that there's a reason why it's generally considered bad form for someone to give away or sell something that was given to them entirely as an act of goodwill? Even if you don't genuinely appreciate the gift itself, it's certainly disrespectful to the giver to just go and do something like that...

              So, since it's rude, anyone who does so should be arrested, and anyone who does business with those who did should be arrested as well?

  • Possibly just a con.
  • Where do you go to buy your moon rocks? Denny's of course!
  • It's called a sting. A sting is basically a set up. The person who offered the money was an operative...
    • by creat3d (1489345)
      I don't think finding a legit buyer would've been so hard... there are people out there with lots of money that would jump on the occasion to own a piece of the Moon, one-upping their friend's diamond encrusted hummer and the other guy's collection of Queen Victoria's used panties.
      • by arth1 (260657)

        the other guy's collection of Queen Victoria's used panties.

        Princess Victoria's panties are more interesting, I'd think.

  • was a chunk of rock worth it nasa? couldnt call it fraud and let the authorities take care of it? had to set up a "sting"?

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Moon rocks are apparently considered national treasure in the US. They needed to set up a sting in order to ensure that they had the rocks so as to verify that they were real and put them back in the collection. The problem is that it could be fraud, but even if the rocks are real the attempted sale would still have been illegal under US law.

  • "Now the subject of an upcoming book and feature film in development by the author and producers behind 2010's "The Social Network," the student thieves were busted when the Belgian rock collector they contacted to buy the moon material contacted the FBI."

    Slashdot falls for another planted story, news at 11.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnif ... s.org minus city> on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:09PM (#36275016) Homepage Journal

    The idea that all the moon rock in the world is owned by the US government and any in private hands must therefor be stolen is somehow very annoying to me. Makes me wonder if you could finance a robotic trip to the moon that had the goal of returning 100kg of moonrock and selling it on the open market. Then NASA would have a much harder time proving that people didn't privately own moonrock.

    • Well until you get some private investors to pony up the necessary cash to do this, I'd say it's safe to track down the lineage of any moon rocks currently on the planet to NASA.
      • by aepervius (535155)
        There are a few ion meteorite and a few ounce from the soviet as the article says : "Outside of lunar meteorites and a few ounces of the moon returned by Soviet robotic probes", but seeing the quantity brought back by human processes, yes 99.99% (a few ounces agaisnt 800+ pounds) is near enough 100%.
    • by mark-t (151149)
      Sure you could.

      It wouldn't stop NASA from probably doing an inquiry, but such an endeavor would have enough of a paper trail that it would not be difficult to substantiate your story. The hardest part of the whole thing would be making sure that the launch itself was legal, and providing sufficient evidence that your return trajectory would not constitute any sort of health or safety hazard to the general public.

      NASA might not like it, because it would lower the value of the moon rocks that they posse

      • by Pharmboy (216950)

        NASA might not like it, because it would lower the value of the moon rocks that they possessed...

        Not true. The marketplace isn't a zero sum place. Adding some more moon rocks to the market would actually increase demand, as right now, no one is allowed to own any. As long as you didn't flood the market with it, introducing it would create more demand for the product, ie: more people would want it than currently do now, raising the total average price per unit. As long as demand is a multiple of supply,

    • The idea that all the moon rock in the world is owned by the US government and any in private hands must therefor be stolen is somehow very annoying to me.

      I see nothing wrong here. The only possible legitimate moon rocks here on earth are the ones brought back by employees of the U.S. government, who are the one people to ever go to the moon. Any moon rock being sold by anyone other than NASA can only be fake or stolen. It's not too hard to figure out.

    • Makes me wonder if you could finance a robotic trip to the moon that had the goal of returning 100kg of moonrock and selling it on the open market. Then NASA would have a much harder time proving that people didn't privately own moonrock.

      Hey if you want to finance it then go ahead. It'll probably cost you somewhere in the billions of dollars so I doubt you would sell it for cheap on the open market. Now my figure is just a guess but considering that it cost NASA $820 million to send a pair of rovers to Mars for a 90 day mission with no possibility of return, it's a reasonable estimate. The launch cost for a rocket to get a satellite in space is like $35 million. Again you'd have to upsize it if you want to return something to the Earth.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Those rocks cost a shitload of money and quite a few lives to go get....
      We're gonna keep track of them for now.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I doubt NASA is going around seizing moon rocks for no reason. They only come from one of a few places: Only the US and Russia have ever brought any back (European, Japanese, Chinese and Indian trips to the moon were all one-way). The US has reported several stolen in the past. This is almost certainly one of those or is a fake. Either way, NASA would be remiss in not investigating.

      Sure, once someone finances a private trip to the moon that all goes out the window, but until then, just be annoyed. It is alm

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well strictly speaking, it's not all on US hands. From the WP article on them "Then President Richard Nixon ordered the distribution of fragments of that rock to 135 foreign heads of state (...)" so there's at least 135 pieces on foreign hands, maybe some other nations too have done sample missions. It just doesn't seem very likely they'd show up on eBay.

      As for making a trip, good luck on that. The thing about getting a lot of mass off the moon is that you have to bring the craft and fuel for it, first out

      • You also can be more flexible in recovery options. If the stuff slams into the Earth pretty hard, you don't really care, as long as it doesn't hit anybody. The other way in which you can be more flexible is that you can adopt a flight path that will take months instead of days.

        But, I agree, it's an expensive proposition, and I think your estimate is still pretty close to accurate. Though I suspect you might be able to get that price for your moon rock if you marketed it well.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          You also can be more flexible in recovery options. If the stuff slams into the Earth pretty hard, you don't really care, as long as it doesn't hit anybody.

          There's very little difference between "lands safely" and "lands like a fireball in bits and pieces over a tri-state area". And even if you could keep it all together, it'd be pretty damn important for your sales price that you can certify for its purity and that it's not just mud from the crash site.

          The other way in which you can be more flexible is that you can adopt a flight path that will take months instead of days.

          Very good point, with a least energy transfer oribit from earth to moon and moon to earth you could save a lot of weight all around both on engines and fuel. Seems the Hiten probe already did that, savings of 2

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Let's just send Bruce Willis up there and blow it up. Then we'll end up with plenty of moon rocks here on Earth.

    • Worse, if you RTFA you will see discussion of the fact that moon rock samples were twice given to each of the 50 states and to each existing country at the time.

      There is absolutely no reason to assume that with all those countries, all of them legally prohibited the transfer of state gifts to private individuals. I'm sure several of those could be privately held, completely legally.

      Of course, it would still be super rare and the owner would likely retain the gift set itself, which would pretty easily di
      • It's my theory that if you successfully pulled this off, NASA would find a way to keep the stuff out of private hands anyway. Perhaps by exercising eminent domain or something.

        Given that, I would not be surprised in NASA 'leaned' on countries to suddenly have 'no state gifts to private individuals' laws. My suspicion is that someone in NASA thinks its vitally important that there be no private ownership of moon rocks. I suspect the person has motives that seem on the surface to be altruistic (prevention of

    • The idea that all the moon rock in the world is owned by the US government

      Is a figment of your imagination, not a fact.

  • by Xaide (1015779)
    Yes, on the moon nerds get their pants pulled down and they are spanked with moon rocks.
  • I'm normally a big NASA supporter, but when exactly did NASA get into law enforcement? NASA agents? wtf.
    • I'm normally a big NASA supporter, but when exactly did NASA get into law enforcement? NASA agents? wtf.

      Since NASA has a policy of not giving out moon rocks to anyone other than a select few (the astronauts who walked on the moon don't even get any) they probably want to investigate these things to see if they are legitimate moon rocks that have been stolen.

    • by arielCo (995647)

      Quoth The Fine Article:

      Several local police officers and NASA OIG agents then moved in on the suspect, took possession of the alleged moon rock and detained the woman for questioning.

      "NASA OIG"? Wikipedia to the rescue:

      Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is an office that is part of Cabinet departments and independent agencies of the United States federal government as well as some state and local governments. Each office includes an Inspector General and employees charged with identifying, auditing, and investigating fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement within the parent agency.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OIG [wikipedia.org]

      So, the NASA guys were more like private detectives (I know, I know) and the cops did the arrest

    • I'm normally a big NASA supporter, but when exactly did NASA get into law enforcement?

      Somewhere around the day NASA came into being.

      What they do is enforce Federal law on NASA facilities and over NASA property. If you have, for example, a NASA employee stealing government property - the local cops haven't the authority to investigate and arrest. Ditto for fraud against NASA, etc.. etc...

      It's the same reason the Park Service has Rangers, and the Navy has the NCIS. There isn't a unified ser

  • How Pathetic (Score:1, Insightful)

    by HansKloss (665474)

    Dozen of agents arresting a housewife???
    Serious criminals walk on streets and laugh every day. Not to mention many other crimes that go unpunished.

    What we lately read, are only stories about heavily armed forces busting housewives and teenagers. Gross.

  • Too many federal law enforcement agencies [wikimedia.org].

    Why does each agency needs its own heat packing force? The current system seems incredibly inefficient and prone to abuse. Why can't the FBI do investigative work so NASA can focus on aeronautics, space and ET?

  • NASA as Law Enforcement; If they had a rendition program they could really start using that "In space nobody can hear you scream" tag line again.

    I wonder what their badge looks like .. a giant golden rocket?

  • So the moon belongs to no nation, yet moon rocks belong to the USA?

    Ya, sounds like typical USA policy.

    • Oil which lies miles underneath the floor of the ocean does also belong to no one...yet we need to pay BP and other companies for it because they tell us "we own it, you pay it"...why's that?

      The U.S. has used a very big amount of resources (money, material and human) to get to the moon, and they brought something back and of course they want to keep it, because they've earned it.

      • you cannot go to a land mass that has no legally declared owners or territorial sovereigns, and then claim that you somehow 'own' it. its ridiculous on it's face.

        • Why can't you? That's how every scrap of land that someone owns today originated, when it comes down to it.
        • Ohhh...but that's how it works. People find a piece of land which belongs to no one, starts clubbing each other at the head and the last man standing owns it. That even works with land which is already owned by someone else, look at Northern Cyprus, Israel or the extreme example: Nothern America.

          They also never claimed the moon...they claimed some *rocks* from it which *they* brought back. If you find a nice shell at the beach in your holidays and you take it home, you would also be pissed if your neighbor

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      They picked them up while visiting. Just like if you are in the middle of the ocean in international waters and catch some fish, they are yours.

  • I got me a half-ounce of smooth moon dust here, guaranteed to do what well you know what moon dust is supposed to do. First cool $50K takes it. Contact CmdrTaco for exchange.

    • guaranteed to do what well you know what moon dust is supposed to do

      So it's guaranteed to get me arrested by a local sheriff working in cooperation with NASA employees?

  • I say, follow the money. Whos the buyer? Is he building a laboratory in a salt mine?

  • "Evidently not the subject of this story, who offered to trade her sample of alleged lunar rock for $1.7 million."

    Can someone please explain it to me?

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