A lunar sample collected 50 years ago during the United States’ Apollo 17 mission in December 1972 and designated for Cyprus is now on the island, and will be on public display this week and the next.
According to a post of the US Embassy on its Facebook account, “this piece of extraterrestrial history will be on public display December 8-10 and December 14-15 at the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation – CSEO ‘Apollo to Artemis’ exhibition at CSEO Discovery Alpha in Nicosia.”
The Goodwill Moon Rock slated for Cyprus had remained unaccounted for – and almost unheard of – for decades. Around 2009, it emerged that the rock sample was never given to the government in 1974, instead ending up for sale on the black market in 2003. The would-be seller was a US diplomat’s relative. The rock was worth approximately 5 million US dollars on the black market.
The coup d’état, the Turkish invasion and the subsequent occupation of the island led to the presentation of the moon rock being delayed.
But when US law enforcement got involved, the seller went underground and the moon rock disappeared yet again.
On August 19, 1974 the US Ambassador to Cyprus was assassinated and the U.S. Embassy and many Cyprus Government building were vacated and attacked. During this time of confusion, it was believed by both Cyprus and the United States that the moon rock was gifted and either destroyed in fire or stolen. It had not, rather it was kept by a US diplomat’s child and brought back to the states. In 2003, that person made inquiries about selling it. In 2009 and dubsequently, the Cyprus Mail wrote several stories about the affair.
The United States gifted 135 nations of the world each an Apollo 11 and a 17 Moon Rock; most of those moon rocks went missing. The United States government considers the remaining moon rocks, other than those gifted to US states and territories, a national treasure.