A Southern California woman who attempted to sell "a speck of lunar dust smaller than a grain of rice" to NASA officials found herself on the receiving end of an elaborate sting operation earlier this year. Life, it's sometimes like a Robert Heinlein story.
To raise money for her family, 73-year-old Joann Davis contacted NASA officials and attempted to pawn a piece of the Moon she claims Neil Armstrong gave her late husband, a former space engineer.
The only problem? NASA doesn't look too kindly on those attempting to sell the Moon (and no, I'm not talking about you snake-oil salesman I hear so much about at those nickelodeon newsreels). Furthermore, Armstrong has claimed that he's never given lunar substances away as gifts. What unfolded next was perhaps the most lamentable underground transaction of extraterrestrial material to date:
She emailed a NASA contractor May 10 trying to find a buyer for the rock, as well as a nickel-sized piece of the heat shield that protected the Apollo 11 space capsule as it returned to earth from the first successful manned mission to the moon in 1969.[...] In follow-up phone conversations with a NASA agent, Davis acknowledged the rock was not sellable on the open market and fretted about an agent knocking on her door and taking the material, which she was willing to sell for "big money underground." [...]
Davis agreed to sell the sample to NASA for a stellar $1.7 million. She said she wanted to leave her three children an inheritance and take care of her sick son.
NASA investigators then arranged the sting, where Conley met with Davis and her current husband at the Denny's restaurant at Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.
Soon after settling into a booth, Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff's deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery.
When officers in flak vests took a hold of her, the 4-foot-11 woman said she was so scared she lost control of her bladder and was taken outside to a parking lot, where she was questioned and detained for about two hours.
In the end, NASA took the dust and Davis wasn't booked. Weird, sad stories like this make me want to blow up the Moon so nobody can enjoy it. On the other hand, I totally understand NASA's impulse to maintain a quarantine of Moon Spider eggs.
Via CBC. Photo: AP. Thanks, designguybrown.