Neil Armstrong Gifted a Girl Moon Dust, Now NASA Wants It Back

If Neil Armstrong gifted you a vial of moon dust when you were a child, you would probably cherish it your entire life, at least that’s what Laura Ann Cicco did. But when NASA became aware she was in possession of “lunar material,” it sought to confiscate the gift from her, more than 40 years later.

Now Cicco, née Murray, is suing the space agency to hold on to her prized gift from the famed astronaut. Cicco and her attorney are contending that lunar material is not contraband and that it is not illegal to possess moon rocks. Cicco says she is the rightful owner of the sample and that there is no law preventing her from owning it.

The dust has been tested and results say it has been cross-contaminated with earthly material, likely from being vacuumed out of a spacesuit or maybe simply from being on Earth for so long. But the report did find consistencies with “the known composition of lunar regolith,” saying “there is no evidence to rule out a lunar origin.”

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A signed, personalized note from Armstrong himself was also analyzed and determined to be authentic, adding to the sample’s veracity.

But there is some precedent for NASA’s desire for the vial, as it has repossessed lunar samples in the past. In April 2013, 20 vials of moon dust were discovered sitting in a warehouse at Berkeley National Laboratory that had been forgotten for 40 years. NASA got them back, though the lab was quick to oblige as it was run by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Last year, a bag of moon dust sold at auction for nearly $2 million, after Nancy Lee Carlson purchased it through a federal auction website for $995. Before the auction, Carlson sent it to NASA for verification, but found that the agency refused to give it back. Carlson sued and had the sample returned to her, promising to contribute some of the auction money to charitable causes.

Ironically, Carlson’s bag of moon dust was originally confiscated as part of a multitude of stolen items found in the home of a Kansas space museum owner, named Max Ary. Police seized a number of items from Ary, before selling them at government auctions, apparently not realizing they should be returned to NASA.

When it comes to moon rocks and space dust, it’s likely NASA is so protective due to the frequency of con artists selling counterfeit samples. NASA agents will frequently go undercover to bust people, including the time in 2011 when agents ran a sting operation on a 74-year-old woman in a Denny’s parking lot. The woman, Joann David, said her husband was gifted her granular lunar sample from Armstrong as well, much like Cicco.

But while David’s attempt to sell her sample was probably legal, there have in fact, been quite a few cases of counterfeit deals NASA has intercepted over the years.

Of the more than 800 pounds of lunar samples brought to Earth during the Apollo missions, many samples were given to foreign countries and private individuals as gifts, though NASA claims this was under the pretense they still remained government property – essentially, they were loaned. Though it’s now estimated that 90 countries and 10 U.S. states cannot account for their samples. So, when they end up in the hands of private individuals, who’s to blame?

It was determined that 180 of the 270 moon rocks brought back to Earth from Apollo missions are unaccounted for. These are mostly rocks gifted to foreign nations by the Nixon Administration, known as Goodwill Moon Rocks. One of these rocks, gifted to Honduras, was recovered during a sting operation in Miami, but most remain missing, likely hidden in private collections throughout the world.

NASA: Never A Straight Answer


Nemesis Star Theory; Does the Sun Have an Evil Twin?

Nemesis Star Theory; Does the Sun Have an Evil Twin?

Many people remain anxious about the threat posed from a hidden nemesis planet, known as Nibiru, that has been prophesied to collide with Earth. Though many of the proposed dates for this collision have come and gone, there is another celestial body that may be more likely to lead to an apocalyptic event: The Nemesis Star.

The Nemesis Star Theory 

Binary star systems occur frequently and are actually more common than single stars. At least that’s what we thought, until a recent hypothesis proposed the possibility that every star starts out as a binary pair or multi-pair system. While the theory hasn’t been confirmed, there is significant evidence that our Sun likely has a twin, an evil twin.

The majority of stars in the galaxy are red dwarfs, which are a fifth of the size of the sun and up to 50 times fainter. These types of stars are pretty commonly paired with another star in a binary system, leading astronomers to believe that Nemesis would be the Sun’s red dwarf star companion. But due to the small size and faintness of these stars, they can be hard to find, making Nemesis all the more elusive.

 

nemesis star theory

binary stars courtesy wired.com

 

This star is thought to be responsible for 12 cyclical extinction events on Earth, including the one that killed the dinosaurs. The Nemesis Star Theory’s roots can be traced to two paleontologists, David Raup and Jack Sepkoski, who noticed that there was a periodicity to major die-outs throughout Earth’s history, occurring in 26 million year intervals. This led to a number of astrophysicists and astronomers, postulating their own Nemesis Star hypotheses.

So how would the sun’s twin be responsible for mass extinctions? The Nemesis Star Theory proposed the idea that the Earth’s binary twin must be in a large 1.5 light-year orbit, retaining just enough gravitational pull between it and the Sun so as not to drift off. But the issue with the orbit of Nemesis is the possibility that it occasionally passes through a cloud of icy debris on the fringe of our solar system, known as the Oort Cloud.

 

Don’t Perturb the Oort

The Oort Cloud is a theoretical sphere that is believed to orbit our solar system, consisting of planetesimals, the small icy building blocks of planets, comets, and asteroids. These planetesimals are sticky and collide with each other until they become large enough to have a significant gravitational pull, eventually becoming as large as a moon or a planet. They also create asteroids and comets which can be knocked out of orbit and sent hurtling toward the center of the solar system, crashing into planets.

There is a binary star system that once passed close enough to nearly perturb the Oort, and it was likely visible from Earth. Scholz’s Star made a flyby some 70,000 years ago, at a distance of 50,000 astronomical units (AU), with one AU being the distance from Earth to the Sun. The Oort is thought to extend from anywhere between 5,000 and 100,000 AUs and is believed to contain up to two trillion celestial objects. Astronomers are 95% certain that Shulz’s star passed within half of a light-year of us, possibly perturbing the Oort, though apparently not enough to cause a mass extinction event.

Comets are believed to exist within the Oort and are the product of a thief model, a give-and-take of celestial bodies between stars when they’re formed. In this process, comets get pulled back and forth between the gravitational field of stars. It was for this reason that the Oort was theorized, due to the number of comets coming from it, there had to have been a sibling star that pulled them out to the Oort.

 

the Oort

The Oort courtesy of space-facts.com

 

Astronomers also found a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, a region just before the Oort that also contains icy, celestial bodies. This planet, named Sedna, orbits the Sun in a long, drawn-out elliptical path and is one of potentially hundreds. Sedna may help to explain the Nemesis star theory, in that its far-flung orbit was likely caused by our Sun’s twin, pulling it out as it drifted off into the depths of space. Imagine if instead of 9 planets in our solar system, there were a few hundred?

So where is this Nemesis star? Several years ago, the E.U. launched the wonderfully named, Gaia satellite, to map out the stars in the Milky Way and look specifically at stars that have had a close encounter with our solar system or that might come close in the future. But whether or not Nemesis will be found is unknown; it’s possible that it could make a return for the next mass extinction, or it is possible that it drifted off, perturbing the Oort of another star.

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