A tiny moon rock believed to be worth about £3m (€4.5m) has been stolen from a Maltese museum, 30 years after US President Richard Nixon donated it to the Mediterranean island nation.
The theft from the Museum of Natural History in Mdina was discovered during a routine check, officials said. A protective cover of plastic had been forced open to take the rock, which was the size of a raisin.
The rock was picked up in a lunar valley named Taurus-Littrow during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, the last of the Apollo moon-landing missions. It was one of many moon samples given to nations of the world by the United States.
The exact value of the rock wasn’t known but a similarly sized moon rock in Honduras, from the same Apollo mission, is worth about £3m (€4.5m). That rock was stolen sometime between 1990 and 1994 and was recovered in 1998 after a sting operation.
A Maltese flag displayed next to the rock – which the US astronauts had taken to the moon with them – was not taken.
“The problem the thieves have is what to do with it,” said Joseph Richard Gutheinz, a retired NASA agent who helped recover the Honduras rock. “They can try to sell it to private collectors or if they’re sufficiently dumb, at an auction house.”