Technology & Science

Moon rock at Dutch museum is just petrified wood

A purported moon rock given to the Dutch government to commemorate the first manned lunar landing in 1969 has turned out to be only a chunk of petrified wood.

A purported moon rock given to the Dutch government to commemorate the first manned lunar landing in 1969 has turned out to be only a chunk of petrified wood.

The Dutch national museum says one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by U.S. astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood. (Rijksmuseum/Associated Press)
The Netherlands' Rijksmuseum said this week that the object was originally given to former Dutch prime minister Willem Drees in October 1969 by J. William Middendorf, a former U.S. ambassador to the country, during a tour by the three Apollo 11 astronauts.

The piece was given to the museum when Drees died in 1988, although it was seldom put on display.

During a showing in 2006, a space expert told the Rijksmuseum it was unlikely that NASA would have handed out moon rocks so shortly after Apollo returned to Earth.

Testing by researchers from Amsterdam's Free University determined the object was not moon rock.

"It's a nondescript, pretty much worthless stone," geologist Frank Beunk said in an article published by the Rijksmuseum.

At one point, the museum had the piece insured for more than $500,000 US, but Beunk estimated its value at no more than 50 euros, or about $78.

The Dutch museum plans to hang on to the piece as a curiosity, said spokeswoman Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation.

"It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," she said. "We can laugh about it."

With files from The Associated Press