Nasa launches sting operation to retrieve tiny moon fragment from 73-year-old grandmother

By | October 25, 2011

The mission to recover a moon rock that ended with a speck of lunar dust But at the end of the sting operation, agents were left holding a speck of lunar dust smaller than a grain of rice and a 73-year-old suspect who was terrified by armed officials.

Five months after NASA investigators and local agents swooped into the restaurant and hailed their operation as a cautionary tale for anyone trying to sell national treasure, no charges have been filed, NASA isn’t talking and the case appears stalled.

The target, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick son, asserts the lunar material was rightfully hers, having been given to her space-engineer husband by Neil Armstrong in the 1970s.

“It’s a very upsetting thing,” Davis, now 74, said. “It’s very detrimental, very humiliating, all of it a lie.”

The strange case centers on a speck of authenticated moon rock encased in an acrylic-looking dome that appears to be a paperweight. For years, NASA has gone after anyone selling lunar material gathered on the Apollo missions because it is considered government property, so cannot be sold for profit.

Still, NASA has given hundreds of lunar samples to nations, states and high-profile individuals but only on the understanding they remain government property. NASA’s inspector general works to arrest anyone trying to sell them.

The case was triggered by Davis herself, according to a search warrant affidavit written by Norman Conley, an agent for the inspector general.

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.

“I’ve been searching the internet for months attempting to find a buyer,” Davis wrote. “If you have any thoughts as to how I can proceed with the sale of these two items, please call.”

Davis said the items were among many of the space-related heirlooms her husband left her when he died in 1986. She said she had worked as a lexicographer and he had worked as an engineer for North American Rockwell, which contracted for NASA during the Apollo era. …

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.

“They grabbed me and pulled me out of the booth,” Davis claimed. “I had very, very deep bruises on my left side.”

Conley declined to comment and NASA Office of the Inspector General spokeswoman Renee Juhans said she could not talk about an ongoing investigation.

Davis was eventually allowed home, without the moon rock, and was never booked into a police station or charged.

The affidavit states authorities believed Davis was in possession of stolen government property but so far they have not publicly revealed any proof.

“This (is) abhorrent behavior by the federal government to steal something from a retiree that was given to her,” said Davis’s attorney, Peter Schlueter, who is planning legal action. …

via Nasa launches sting operation to retrieve tiny moon fragment from 73-year-old grandmother – Telegraph.

What do you suppose she meant by “… all of it a lie.” … the allegations that she was a thief, or… the moon landing itself? 😉

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