Misbegotten moon rock

by Anonymous on Aug. 28th, 2009

Apollo 11 on the Moon: It's obvious from this photo that the astronauts couldn't have been behind the mix-up.
Apollo 11 on the Moon: It's obvious from this photo that the astronauts couldn't have been behind the mix-up.Courtesy NASA with adaption.
A supposed genuine "moon rock" given to the Dutch government back in 1969 has turned out to be nothing more than a lousy piece of petrified wood. I'm no geologist but one look at a photograph of the rock and I could have saved everyone involved a boatload of embarrassment. The "precious" souvenir was presented to then Dutch prime minister Willem Drees by U.S. Ambassador J. Middendorf II during a goodwill tour by the three Apollo 11 astronauts. Since Drees's death the rock has resided in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The gift was arranged though a phone call to NASA and it sounds like somewhere along the line somebody pulled a fast one.

BBC story

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

James Satter's picture

Thank you for posting this story. The mistake is strange, as you point out, since the rock looks like petrified wood--and there aren't any plants on the moon.

Over the years I've come to realize that a lot of people incorrectly jump to the conclusion that just about any unusual looking rock must be from the moon or a meteorite--or than any bone found in the ground must belong to a dinosaur.

posted on Sat, 08/29/2009 - 1:48pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

That's so... sad.

Here's a little play I've written about it:

Scene 1, in a NASA lab:

J. Middendorf II: So... are there any extra moon rocks lying around?

Scientist dude: No. Does it look like we're made of extra moon rocks?

J. Middendorf II: ... maybe?

Scientist dude: We're not. There are no extra moon rocks.

J. Middendorf II: Hmm... Has the Netherlands ever been to the moon?

Scientist dude: As if.

J. Middendorf II: Ok! I'll take whatever rock you've got! That one! I'll take that one!

Scientist dude: The petrified wood?

Scene 2, someplace fancy in the Netherlands:

J. Middendorf II: Check it out, Bill—I got you a genuine moon rock!

Willem Drees: Oh, thank you! It's wonderful!

J. Middendorf II: So... do you have many geologists here?

Willem Drees: Oh my, no. We are all dam engineers.

J. Middendorf II: Sweet. Enjoy the moon rock. Oh, all of America chipped in, so it's from them too.

Willem Drees: I love it.

Scene 3, it's 1988, Willem Drees is 101 and looking back on his life:

Willem Drees: I think the moon rock is my favorite. It has been to the moon! And when I stand on it, it is like I am the first Dutchman on the moon! Thank you, America, for now I can die happy.

(Drees dies)

Scene 4, 2009 at the Rijksmuseum:

Some random person: This is, ah, petrified wood, actually.

Willem Drees (from his grave while spinning): Nooooo!

posted on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 9:54am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Maybe some cataclysmic event, like a meteor strike to Earth, caused the piece of petrified wood lying on the ground nearby to achieve maximum velocity and break free of Earth's gravitational field, soar into space and settle on the moon's surface pre-Apollo mission time. Granted, a lot has to go right for that all to happen, but it just might.

posted on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 10:07am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Or maybe the centerpiece of Ambassador J. Middendorf II's fireplace mantle is a nice chunk of moon rock he claims he bought on eBay, and his petrified wood collection is short one specimen.

posted on Mon, 08/31/2009 - 10:48am

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