A solid gold replica of the lunar landing module – one of only three ever made – went missing from the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio late Friday night, apparently taken by thieves. According to NPR, the rare gold replica was one of only three that was ever made. The replica, made of pure 18K gold was gifted to Neil Armstrong by the readers of the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1969 while on a visit to France just a few months after his historic landing on the moon. Two other golden replicas were also gifted to his co-astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Police officials from Wapakoneta were alerted about the theft after an alarm went off inside the museum on Friday night. They have launched an investigation into the incident.
According to a statement issued by the Wapakoneta police department, they were alerted to the incident on Friday, July 28, 2017, at 23:59 hours, when they received a call of a burglary alarm at the museum located at 500 Apollo Drive. Upon reaching the place, they discovered that the museum had been breached into and the solid gold replica of the 1969 Lunar Excursion Module was missing. In the statement, the replica has been described as being 5-inches tall. The manufacturer of the replica was Cartier. One of the replicas that were given to Collis was repurchased by Cartier for $56,000 a few years ago. The police department officials confirmed that they are being assisted in this case by personnel from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Officials from the Armstrong Air & Space Museum were visibly distressed at the loss of the replica of the module and initially announced that the museum would remain closed for an indefinite period. They, however, revoked the closure just a day later. The museum also issued a statement via its official Facebook page and termed the incident unfortunate.
Here is the statement reproduced in its entirety.
“The truth is that you can’t steal from a museum. Museum’s don’t “own” artifacts. We are simply vessels of the public trust. Museums care for and exhibit items on behalf of you, the public. Theft from a museum is a theft from all of us. Three hundred people driving from across the country were robbed of their opportunity to experience the museum today. For every day that an item is missing, we are all robbed of an opportunity to enjoy it and our history.”
The Armstrong Air and Space Museum was established at its current location in 1972 – just three years after Neil Armstrong became the first man on the planet to set foot on the moon. The Museum is famous for having several one-of-a-kind artifacts that could not be seen anywhere else. These include the Gemini VIII spacecraft, Neil Armstrong’s Gemini and Apollo spacesuits, and an Apollo 11 moon rock.
[Featured Image by AP Images]