I love this news story… from a Press Release from the US Attorney’s Office in Eastern Missouri:
St. Louis, MO – The United States Attorney’s Office announced that what is believed to be lunar material stolen from National Aeronautics and Space Administration decades ago was safely returned on Monday of this week to its laboratories at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The material consists of moon dust removed from the film cartridge of a camera used by astronauts on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 Mission. The moon dust is believed to have been smuggled out by a NASA employee that had access to the camera that was used on the Apollo 11 Mission. NASA investigators believe that the employee removed the moon dust using a 1-inch piece of tape and that the tape was later sold in 2001 to a German national who deals in space-related memorabilia. Since then the trail has grown cold as it is believed the tape was cut into several smaller segments and sold to unknown purchasers. This would be the first of the segments to be recovered.
Right after the Apollo 11 capsule returned, it was NASA employee Terry Slezak’s job to open the cameras carried by the astronauts. One of the cameras had been dropped in the dust during the moonwalk, and had dust in it. When Slezak opened the camera, he got the dust all over his hands. Slezak was the first person, then, to touch moondust with his bare hands.
He cleaned some of it up with tape, brought it home, affixed the tape to a poster that was autographed by the Apollo 11 astronauts, and sold it. The tape (at least a piece of it) turned up again this week in an auction in St. Louis, MO. The feds recovered it before it was sold.