Woman terrified by NASA sting
October 25, 2011 by staff
But at the end of the covert operation, the agents left with a speck of moondust smaller than a grain of rice and a suspect 74-year-old, who was terrorized by armed officers.
Five months after researchers from NASA and local officials rushed into the restaurant and praised her performance as a warning for anyone trying to sell a national treasure, no charges have been filed, NASA is not talking and the case appears stalled.
The goal, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick child, says the lunar material was rightfully theirs, having been given to her husband, engineer Neil Armstrong’s space in the 1970 .
“It’s a very sad thing,” Davis told The Associated Press. “It’s very disruptive, very humiliating, it’s all a lie.”
The case centers on a strange bit of moon rock encased in a dome authenticated acrylic future appears to be a paperweight. For years, NASA has gone after the sale of any lunar material gathered in the Apollo missions, as it is considered government property and therefore can not be sold for profit.
However, NASA has given hundreds of lunar samples to nations, states and high-profile individuals, but only on the understanding that they remain government property. NASA Inspector General works to stop anyone trying to sell.
The case was brought by Davis himself, according to an affidavit written by Norman Conley, an agent of the inspector general.
She emailed a NASA contractor May 10 trying to find a buyer for the rock, and a nickel-sized piece heat shield that protects the Apollo 11 space capsule returning to Earth the first successful manned mission to the moon in 1969.
“I’ve been searching the internet for months trying to find a buyer,” wrote Davis. “If you have any ideas how I can proceed with the sale of these items, please call.”
Davis told the AP that the articles were among many of the relics related to the space left when her husband died in 1986. She said she had worked as a lexicographer and had worked as an engineer at North American Rockwell, which contracted for NASA during the Apollo era.
Armstrong said Davis gave the items to her husband, despite the affidavit says the first man on the moon has told investigators he never gave or sold to anyone lunar material.
At follow-up telephone conversations with an agent from NASA, Davis recognized the rock was not salable in the open market and worried about an agent knocking on your door and take the material that she was willing to sell “large sums underground money. ”
“She must know that this is a dubious transaction because it uses the ‘black market’, the term” agent Conley states in the warrant.
Interestingly, however, Davis agreed to sell the shows to NASA for a stellar 1.7 million. She said she wanted to leave their three children a legacy and take care of her sick child.
NASA researchers then organized the sting, where he met with Davis Conley and her current husband Denny in Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.
Shortly after settling in a cabin, said Davis, took the sample from the moon and about half a dozen sheriff’s deputies NASA researchers and rushed into the restaurant.
When officers in bulletproof vests are a hold of her, the wife of 4 feet-11 said he was so frightened that he lost control of her bladder and was taken out of a parking lot where he was interrogated and detained for about two hours.
“They grabbed me and pulled me out of the cab,” said Davis. “I had bruises very, very deep in my left side.”
Conley refused to comment and the NASA Office of Inspector General spokeswoman Renee Juhans said he could not discuss an ongoing investigation.
Davis was finally allowed home, without the moon rock, and never was arrested in a police station or office.
The affidavit says authorities believe that Davis was in possession of stolen government property, but so far have not publicly revealed any evidence.
“This behavior (s) aberrant by the federal government to steal something from a retiree who was given to her,” said Davis’s lawyer, Peter Schlueter, who is planning legal action.
Joseph Gutheinz, an instructor at the University of Phoenix and former NASA researcher who has spent years tracking down missing moon rocks, Davis said processing could be difficult.
Gutheinz said he recently learned that NASA does not always take good care of lunar materials. In some cases, space suits were simply out a hose and lunar dust on them is lost forever.
While larger rocks, such as those granted to countries and museums were inventoried and follow-up care, it now appears that there are any number of much smaller pieces which circulate in the public. Some of these may have been turned into paperweights and informally given by engineers from NASA.
“I have a real moral problem with what has happened here in California,” said Gutheinz. “I’ve always taken the position that no one should have a rock from the Apollo era moon. Belong to the people. But if you did a good job of protecting (the lunar samples,) I can not complain about that person.”
About 2,200 samples of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust – weighing 840 pounds – were brought to Earth by NASA’s Apollo lunar landing from 1969 to 1972. A recent count showed 10 states and more than 90 countries could not account for their actions in the gray rocks.
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