When 74-year-old Joann Davis of Lake Elsinore contacted NASA on May 10th, she was looking for a buyer for the piece of moon rock her dead husband left her.
Deceased in 1986, her husband worked for the North American Rockwell that built the Apollo spacecraft. He later had the opportunity to meet Neil Armstrong and was gift the piece of moon gravel.
Having looked for months to secure a buyer, Davis emails a NASA contractor out of the urgency to pay for her son's medical bills. She says she also wanted to leave her three children with a generous inheritance. Soon after, the Associated Press reports that NASA operators turned up at the Denny's she was eating at in Lake Elsinore, CA. Davis said that half a dozen investigators and sheriffs were present. She also reports being mishandled and got several bruises from the treatment. Davis was so frightened that she lost control of her bladder as they took her. The 74-year-old was detained and questioned for about two hours afterward.
In NASA's defense, the woman was in unlawful possession of this vital item. For the tiny piece of rock, Davis was allegedly attempting to sell it for $1.7 million to NASA.
She was later released without charges (and her moon rock), but NASA stands firm that all moon rock is technically government property-making it illegal to sell such items. On another note, Neil Armstrong is allegedly claiming that he never gave anyone any moon rock.
NASA has in past years given moon rocks to countries, states, and high-profile people, but anyone trying to sell these would be arrested. It's said that many states and governments cannot trace their samples and some may even have circulated into the public. Between the years 1969 to 1972, records show about 2,200 lunar samples were brought back to Earth. All of these combined to weigh around 840 pounds, including everything from dust and sand to pebbles. It is unclear whether Davis was aware of NASA's policy, but investigators claim she knew she was selling on the black market.
Five months since this case, the NASA agency is still silent and the case seems stalled at this point. There are no updates about further prosecution of the 74-year-old, but at least NASA got their moon rock back.