Thieves Swipe Gold Model of Armstrong's Apollo Capsule
They were likely after a 'quick buck,' says ex-NASA agent
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2017 9:20 AM CDT
A lunar module replica at Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Police say the rare gold replica of the lunar space module has been stolen from the museum.   (Armstrong Air and Space Museum/Wapakoneta police department via AP)

(Newser) – It was one small model for Neil Armstrong, but one giant heist for thieves: Police in Ohio are searching for a rare solid gold replica of the first vehicle to land on the moon that was stolen from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum late Friday, NPR reports. An alarm signaled cops to the theft from the museum in Wapakoneta, Armstrong's hometown. Police said it was impossible to put a value on the 5-inch Cartier-cast replica, which Armstrong received in Paris shortly after the 1969 mission. Fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins also got 18-karat models, which were commissioned and paid for by France's Le Figaro newspaper and its readers.

The museum, which closed for several hours on Saturday, posted a statement on Facebook saying, "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. … For every day that an item is missing, we are all robbed of an opportunity to enjoy it and our history." The FBI was aiding local police in investigating the theft. A retired NASA agent tells the AP the replica could fetch millions among space collectors, but the thieves probably plan to melt it down for its gold. Joseph Gutheinz Jr. notes that whoever swiped the statue left behind a large moon rock also worth millions. "Either they didn't have easy access to the moon rock, or they weren't into collectibles," Gutheinz says. "They were into turning a quick buck." (Thanks to a NASA inventory error, this woman is $1.8 million richer.)

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