The Moon rocks collected by Apollo astronauts are among the most valuable substances locked up in NASA facility. Back in July 2002, a NASA intern decided to steal some Moon rocks to "have sex on the Moon".
Thad Roberts, a promising intern at NASA, once hoped to be the first man on Mars. However, that dream was put aside after he noticed a sizeable quantity of Moon rocks being kept at NASA’s lunar lab in Houston, Texas under somewhat insecure conditions.
Roberts came up with a plan to steal 101 grams of Moon rocks – valued at some $21 million dollars – so that he could literally give his girlfriend the Moon. He wanted to lay the lunar samples out on a bed and "have sex on the Moon".
He even managed to get in touch with a Belgian amateur mineralogist who expressed interest in buying some of the rocks.
Roberts, his girlfriend Tiffany Fowler, and their accomplice Shae Saur – all of whom were NASA interns, used their official IDs to enter the building on the night of the crime. When they reached the safe, Roberts realised that the rocks were as insecure as he had thought.
He believed that the combination to the safe was written on a tag tied to its handle. However, on the night of one of the most audacious heists in history, Roberts and his friends found out that the tag contained a cryptic reminder of the code.
The NASA interns who couldn't back off after coming this far decided to carry the whole safe out of the building and drove to a motel where they managed to open the safe with a power saw.
Roberts and his girlfriend scattered the Moon rocks on a bed and had sex on them.
According to the FBI’s report on the Moonrock caper, "The young thieves did more than just try to sell off a collection of lunar samples worth as much as $21 million. In the process, they also contaminated them – making them virtually useless to the scientific community. They also destroyed three decades' worth of handwritten research notes by a NASA scientist that had been locked in the safe."
Meanwhile, Roberts, using the alias "Orb Robinson", had negotiated the sale of the rocks with the Belgian mineralogist for prices ranging up to $5,000 per gram. He was going to meet the Belgian's American relatives at an Italian restaurant in Orlando, Florida, on the 33rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, July 20, 2002.
It turned out that the Belgian mineralogist contacted the FBI who took over his end of the deal as American relatives and trapped Roberts in a sting operation.
"There, Orb and two partners were arrested and the Moon rocks successfully recovered in their nearby hotel room," according to the FBI report.
The three NASA interns entered guilty pleas. Roberts was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for his role in the Moonrock caper, as well as a separate offence of stealing dinosaur bones from a museum in Utah.
While in jail, Roberts studied for degrees in physics, anthropology and philosophy. Now 44, he has become a leading authority on the large-scale structure of the Universe.
He told The Daily Star that he's tired of talking about his youthful misdemeanors and instead wants to focus on his interpretation of an 11-dimensional geometric theory encompassing dark matter, dark energy, wave-particle duality, quantum tunnelling, gravity, early-universe inflation, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.