It’s like a bad dream: A piece of moon rock given to the Dutch Rijksmuseum in 1969 by the three Apollo astronauts has been revealed to be fossilized wood. This is certainly fuel for conspiracy theories!

At the time, fragments from the moon were highly prized and considered extraordinary treasures, and the Dutch originally insured their piece for half a million dollars, and NASA had confirmed that the rock definitely was brought back from the moon. However, since there is no evidence that trees have ever grown on the moon, the only logical explanation is that the astronauts handed Dutch Prime Minister Willem Drees a fake. How or why this happened is unknown. During the 1970s, lunar fragments were given to more than a hundred countries. Then again, if the fragment really DID come from the moon, what might that mean?

NASA has no explanation. The simplest one would be that the astronauts wanted to keep the real rock themselves, since it was considered (at the time) to be quite valuable. BBC News quotes Xandra van Gelder, the investigator who discovered this, as saying, “It’s a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered. We can laugh about it.”

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