Sex on the Moon & More! There are a lot of strange things that I love about the Moon, and even stranger things that have happened to the rocks taken off the lunar surface by men and machines. And that includes confirmed sex on the Moon…but not exactly what you might think!
The lunar bounty from the American moon voyages more than 40 years ago include 847 pounds of assorted rocks, six-foot deep “core samples” from a dozen drill tubes, and handfuls of soil finer than talcum powder.
More than 700 pounds of alien soil is locked up in the specially built Lunar Sample Laboratory at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. A smaller collection is stored at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Most of the rocks are stored in nitrogen to keep them free of moisture, and they are handled indirectly with gloves and sterile room conditions, so they are not contaminated.
America has freely shared with the scientific community the spoils of our victory over the Soviet Union in the 1960s Moon Race. Universities, laboratories and observatories around the world have been loaned moon rocks for analysis. Space program educators and teachers numbering in the hundreds have been loaned a thumb-sized lunar rock encased in clear plastic for demonstrations and pass-around. And there are dozens of moon rocks on display in museums and science centers around the world.
Two other sources of Moon materials are the 11 ounces brought back by three robotic mission of the Soviet Union in the 1970s; the other source is meteorites that are found on Earth after being blasted off the Moon millions—maybe billions—of years ago.
So, we know exactly what the Moon is composed of, and for all you chemist types, here is the chemical makeup of lunar soil: Oxygen 40% Silicon 20% Iron 12% Calcium 8.5% Aluminum 7% Magnesium 5% Titanium 5% traces of Sodium, Chromium, Manganese, Potassium, Sulfur and Carbon.
The first moon rocks held in human hands belong to the 47 pounds brought back by Apollo 11 in July 1969. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin opened for the first time the aluminum box of rocks inside their moon ship “Eagle,” they said it smelled like gun smoke. Which make sense when you see the violently smashed surface of the Moon.
President Richard Nixon oddly reaped the glory of the first Moon landing, talking to the Apollo 11 astronauts as they worked on the surface. The irony is political nemesis President John F. Kennedy challenged America to go to the Moon, yet Nixon’s signature is on the commemorative plaque left on each of the six launch platforms at the Apollo landing sites.
The planting of the American flag by the American astronauts was met with some objections by nations around the world, implying a territorial conquest. But that was not the intent of the US, though the Moon Race with the USSR was a real test of superiority in the eyes of the rest of the world.
To ease the world’s perception of America conquering the Moon, President Nixon used his political influence and gave away chunks of the Moon in 1973. The President told NASA to prepare plaques with several grams of Moon rocks securely attached in an acrylic sphere, which also included the recipients’ flag which was flown in space.
In fact, the “Goodwill Moon Rock” displays were given to 135 countries and all 50 American states. There were another 85 lunar displays made, given to friends and world dignitaries.
Sadly, about 160 of the Goodwill Moon Rocks have been stolen or misplaces. Among the missing are Delaware, New Jersey, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Ireland, Malta, Nicaragua, Romania, Spain and Sweden.
There’s no telling where these missing Moon rocks have ended up. They are the biggest celebrities amongst gem collectors, and there is a black market for them. And there have been some thefts uncovered, one involving a sting on the Honduras lunar rock where undercover agents offered $4 million.
But the most famous Moon rock heist involved a young space engineer who promised his girlfriend “the Moon” and delivered.
In 2002, 24-year-old Thad Roberts stole 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of lunar samples from the Houston Lunar Lab, scattered them under on a hotel bed and made love to his girlfriend. The famous episode is chronicled in the book Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich. And there are several documentaries shown on television.
In a nutshell, intern Thad Roberts not only stole a dozen Moon rocks out of the Houston Lunar Lab, but he did it by taking the whole safe they were stored in!
The Moon burglar’s accomplices included his girlfriend (who has married) and two other interns. While in negotiations with a Belgian rock collector (which was a sting), Roberts took his girlfriend to a chain motel room where he had placed the Moon rocks under the mattress of the bed. On July 20, 2002, the 33rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the fugitive couple made love on the bed of Moon rocks.
But the thrill was short-lived when arrested the next day. Roberts served six years in prison for his fulfilled fantasy of having sex on the Moon!
Other known lunar rock thefts include a set of six fragments used for educational programs at the Louisiana Science and Nature Center, and a collection of Moon rocks stolen from the company van while parked in the driveway of a NASA education specialist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There are legal Moon rocks for sale about the size of a grain of sand that came from a lunar meteorite. (as well as a micro-gram of Mars from Martian meteorites). So just how much does a Moon rock cost? We can do a little math with the 947 pounds of Moon and the agreed upon $40 billion in 1960s dollars for the cost of NASA’s manned space programs of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. That breaks down to $47.25 million per pound or $2.9 million per ounce or $105,414 per gram of the Apollo booty. In the context of 2015 dollars, you could multiply the figures by ten.But the cost is not the bottom line when it comes to the Apollo moon rocks. The spin-offs from the need to invent new technologies are the real treasure of the incredible Moon Race of the 1960s. The conquest of the Moon led to all the conveniences of today’s 21st Century world. And the precious souvenirs of the Moon are exotic reminders that mankind will continue to reach for new alien worlds…and hold it in our hands.