Neil Armstrong's Solid Gold Moon Lunar Replica Stolen From Museum
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Image Courtesy of Flickr user 'NASA Goddard Space Flight Center'
(Kitco News) - A solid gold replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module, which was gifted to Neil Armstrong in 1969, was stolen from a museum in Ohio. According to reports, the biggest fear is that thieves want to melt the priceless artifact down for its value in gold.
“This piece is very rare as it was presented to Neil Armstrong in Paris, France shortly after the moon landing,” the Wapakoneta Police Department said in a statement. “This piece is one of only three to exist. A value cannot be determined.”
The artifact was displayed at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio.
The first reports of the burglary were received on Friday night, authorities said, adding that the local police department is working with the FBI on recovering the item.
There were a total of three reproductions of the Lunar Excursion Module created by Cartier and gifted to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
In a 2003 auction, Cartier is believed to have bought back the replica gifted to Collins for $56,000. The golden lander was placed in the company’s own permanent collection, according to media reports.
NASA agent Joseph Gutheinz Jr., told AP that the fear is that thieves might not know the value of what they stole and simply want to melt the item down for its weight in gold.
Gutheinz added that the burglars left a massive moon rock untouched, which has a much greater value and was displayed near the golden Apollo 11 lunar model replica.
“Either they didn’t have easy access to the moon rock, or they weren’t into collectibles,” Gutheinz said. “They were into turning a quick buck.”
The museum has already re-opened since the incident and released a statement on Facebook:
“The truth is that you can't steal from a museum. Museum's don't ‘own’ artifacts. We are simply vessels of the public trust. Museums care for and exhibit items on behalf of you, the public. Theft from a museum is a theft from all of us.”
Reports do not indicate how much gold is in the replica; however, the yellow metal is trading close to a two-month high at $1,278.80 an ounce.