The U.S. astronauts brought back from the moon’s surface a minute piece of extraterrestrial rock. It has finally reached its intended destination after half a century. The destination is the east Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
The 1.1 gramme piece of moon rock was on display at an exhibition. The exhibition was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the last of the U.S. manned lunar missions and the Artemis spacecraft that’s now orbiting the moon.
The lunar sample is encased in a plastic globe with an attached plaque underneath a small flag of Cyprus. The Cyprus reads: “This fragment is a portion of a rock from the Taurus Littrow valley of the Moon. It is given as a symbol of the unity of human endeavour. It carries with it the hope of the American people for a world at peace.”
This Cyprus echoes the words of Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan. Cernan said the rock would be a “symbol of what our feelings are, what the feelings of the Apollo programme are and a symbol of mankind.”
It was one of the 270 lunar samples that was brought back from moon missions in 1969 and 1972. The Nixon administration gave these samples as gifts to foreign countries.
But Cyprus shook under the weight of war and internal strife in 1974. This is the year when the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Rodger P. Davies was assassinated.
The Cyprus was eventually returned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. After that it was locked up in a vault. It finally made its return to Cyprus. Now it will be officially handed over to the Cypriot people during a ceremony at the presidential palace.
The Associated Press was informed by Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Arizona professor and former NASA investigator that a relative of a U.S. diplomat posted to the U.S. had taken the Cyprus moon sample.
Gutheinz said that in 2009 he put pressure on the individual with the rock to “do the right thing” and return it to NASA.
Many lunar samples gifted to other nations have been stolen and destroyed or went missing, according to Gutheinz.