A stone recovered from the moon surface has been missing from the national collection since 2004. The stone was at the Imdina Natural History Museum, from where it was stolen 15 years ago.
The stone formed part of a rock recovered from the moon surface in 1972 by Apollo 17 mission of astronaut Harrison Schmitt. The rock was cut in small pieces of around one gram each. The sample was placed in a plastic container on a wooden plaque, together with the Maltese flag which had accompanied the Apollo 17 crew on the moon.
The plaque was given to Malta in 1973 by United States President, Richard Nixon, a donation which was also given to other world countries as a peace and harmony gesture.
During the robbery, 15 years ago, the flag and plaque were not touched and are still part of the national collection. Asked about the estimated value of the stolen stone, a Heritage Malta spokesperson said that museums do not collect objects on their monetary value basis, however reports in the international media had quoted figures of $5 million while others said it is priceless.
Various moon stones, presented to countries as a commemoration of the event, were also stolen.
In two months’ time the world will commemorate the 50 anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission when in July 1969 man descended on the moon for the first time through astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Even in the Apollo 11 mission, the Maltese flag was carried on the moon.
In Heritage Malta’s collection at the Nature Museum in Gozo there are four small samples of stones from the moon, gathered by Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin. The four stones weigh in all 0.05 grams and are exhibited inside a coin-size plastic container.
The Maltese flag which the Apollo 11 crew carried on the moon is also exhibited together with the stone samples donated to the Maltese people by President Nixon.