NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Half a century after U.S. astronauts brought it back from the moon’s surface, a small piece of extraterrestrial rock has finally reached its destination, the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
The 1.1 gram moon rock was on display Thursday at an exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the US Apollo moon landing, and the Artemis mission – its Orion capsule on its way back to Earth after orbiting the moon.
“We have a moon rock that we feel is the right time, 50 years after it was brought to Earth,” said George Danos, head of the Cyprus Space Exploration Agency, which runs the exhibition.
The lunar model is encased in a plastic globe with a plaque attached under a small flag of Cyprus: “This fragment is a piece of rock from the Taurus Lytro Valley of the Moon. It is presented as a symbol of the unity of human endeavor and carries the hope of the American people for a peaceful world.
It echoes the words of Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan, who said the rock “will be a symbol of what we feel, what the Apollo program feels, and a symbol of humanity’s ability to live in peace and harmony. The future.” The three astronauts returned to Earth on December 19, 1972, ending the Apollo 17 lunar program.
It was one of 270 lunar samples brought back from the 1969 and 1972 lunar missions that the Nixon administration gave as gifts to foreign countries.
But in the midst of the Cyprus War and civil strife in 1974, the US ambassador to Cyprus, Rodger B. The year after Davis was assassinated, the item disappeared.
It was eventually returned to NASA in the US and locked away in a vault. It was finally returned to Cyprus thanks to the efforts of Danos and will be officially handed over to the Cypriot people in a ceremony on December 16 at the Presidential Palace.
Joseph Kutheins, a University of Arizona instructor and former NASA investigator who discovered the missing moon rocks, told The Associated Press that the Cyprus moon sample was taken by a relative of the U.S. embassy who sent it to the U.S. embassy. At that time in Nicosia.
Kudins said in 2009 he pressured the individual with the rock to “do the right thing” and return it to NASA, which it did after five months of negotiations.
Many lunar samples gifted to other countries have been stolen, destroyed or gone missing, Kutheens said.
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