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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 02:43 GMT
US wins custody of moon rock
The US Government has won its fight against a Florida businessman over a disputed piece of moon rock valued at up to $5m.

Astronaut on the moon (Nasa)
It is not known how the moon rock ended up in Florida
A federal judge ruled that Alan Rosen could not keep the rock, despite his proposal that it be sold and the proceeds split between himself and the US Government, which said it had been stolen.

"The United States has not agreed to an equitable division and indeed vehemently opposes it," the judge said.

An editor for a website that specialises in space collectibles said the result was expected, because private possession of moon rocks and wreckage from the Columbia and Challenger disasters is considered illegal and carries stiff penalties.

"It would have been very interesting, though, if it had been awarded to Rosen," Robert Pearlman told the Associated Press news agency.

"It would have set a precedent for private ownership of lunar material that doesn't exist as of right now."

Undercover sting

The small piece of rock was originally given to the government of Honduras by former US President Richard Nixon in 1973.

However, it eventually ended up, for unknown reasons, in the city of Miami in Florida.

Mr Rosen said he bought the rock from a Honduran general for $50,000 after it disappeared from the country's presidential palace in the early 1990s.

He lost the rock, thought to be around 3.5 billion years old, when undercover agents set up a sting by placing an advertisement looking for moon rocks on sale in 1998.

The Honduran Government has since called for the return of the rock. However, it is up to the US Government to decide what to do with it.

Four charged over moon rock theft
23 Jul 02 |  Americas

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