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Rare Apollo mission moon rock back in Cyprus after 50 years



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NICOSIA, Cyprus – Half a century after US astronauts brought it back from the lunar surface, a small piece of extraterrestrial rock has finally reached its intended destination, the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.

The 1.1-gram piece of lunar rock went on display Thursday at an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the last US manned lunar mission and the Artemis spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

“We have moon rock, which we feel is the perfect timing because it’s been 50 years since it was brought to Earth,” said George Danos, president of the Cyprus Space Exploration Foundation, which organized the exhibition. .

The moon specimen is encased in a plastic sphere with a plaque attached to it beneath the small flag of Cyprus that reads: “This fragment is part of a rock from the Taurus Littrow valley of the Moon. It was offered as a symbol of unity in human endeavour, and carried the American people’s hope for a peaceful world.”

That echoes the words of Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan, who said the rock will be “a symbol of our emotions, what the Apollo program’s emotions are, and a symbol of humanity.” kind, that we can live in peace and harmony in the future.”

It was one of 270 such lunar samples brought back from lunar missions in 1969 and 1972 that the Nixon administration gave to foreign countries as gifts.

But the item disappeared as Cyprus reeled between war and internal strife in 1974, the year the US Ambassador to Cyprus Rodger P. Davies was assassinated.

It was eventually returned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States and stored in a vault. It has finally returned to Cyprus thanks to Danos’ efforts and will be officially handed over to the Cypriot people in a ceremony on December 16 at the presidential palace.

Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Arizona lecturer and former NASA investigator who has tracked missing moon rocks, told The Associated Press that the Cyprus lunar sample was taken by a relative of a diplomat United States, who was sent to the US Embassy. in Nicosia at that time.

Gutheinz says that in 2009, he pressured the individual who had the rock to “do the right thing” and return it to NASA, which he did after a five-month negotiation.

Gutheinz said many Moon samples donated to other countries have been stolen, destroyed or gone missing.

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