Sunday, March 16, 2008

Moon detritus worth more than gold

"I wondered why everyone kept clustering around Tony Irving, of the University of Washington at Seattle. Then I realized: if you're the guy holding a moon rock at a lunar science conference, you're pretty popular. Here's Tony with his 600-gram, 1-centimetre thick slice of the moon, taken from the 2nd largest lunar meteorite ever, an 11.5 kilo monster found in Morocco last summer. That's just shy of “Big Muley,” an 11.7 kilo sample that was the biggest returned by the Apollo astronauts.

"Assuming a bargain basement price of $1,000 per gram, Tony's slab would be worth half a million dollars, and the 11.5 kilo monster it came from would be worth more than $10 million. But Tony insists: “It's a scientific treasure, not a financial treasure.”

"The rocks are important because they represent a wider distribution of the types of rocks that exist on the moon. The Apollo missions only retrieved rocks from a few specific areas, Whereas the 56 known lunar meteorites, which result from random impacts, sample a far greater area. This one, Tony says, comes from highlands on the lunar far side. He says it's an important rock because it contains bits of iron nickel metal that are exotic to the moon."

Read more from the NATURE conference reporter's BLOG.

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