MOTHER EARTH CHANGES HER NAME TO SELENE
Today I received an email from the National Aviary. It was a follow-up to my job interview three months prior. It read something along the lines of:
We apologize for the delayed response. We had an unexpected hiring furlough but are now ready to proceed. We would like to offer you the position of [INSERT DREAM TITLE HERE] with an immediate start date.
I received this email while I was at work. Now it is several hours later, and I have yet to respond. Instead, I am working on a longform investigative article with little prospect for publication. It is about the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 lunar rock samples that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon gave as goodwill gifts to over 100 nations and states. Nixon had small Moon dust samples placed in acrylic capsules, which were then attached to wooden display stands with banal dedication inscriptions and depictions of each nation or state’s flag.
Upon delivery of these goodwill gifts (which were distributed in the early 1970s), their fates were no longer tracked by NASA or any other U.S. entity. Many recipients thought of them as little more than a novelty item – if humanity had reached the Moon before, then we’d surely reach it again. The dust was essentially worthless. But the last manned Moon landing was on 1972, and the gifts are now worth millions of dollars.
Dozens of these gifts have disappeared in the decades since the last Moon landing. Some have been found; in the strange cases of Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska, they were later found in the homes of former state governors. In Alaska, the Apollo 11 sample was taken by a teenager from the ashes of a fire that destroyed the Alaska Transportation Museum in 1973.
Other samples were lost during political strife, like the Apollo 17 sample given to Cyprus around the time of their 1974 coup d’état. The Apollo 11 sample given to Spain disappeared following the death of General Francisco Franco. The Apollo 17 sample given to Romania disappeared in the years after former President Nicolae Ceaușescu’s execution by firing squad. Rumors of the fates of these gifts range from their destruction to their sale on the black market.
Some of the goodwill gifts were blatantly stolen and have yet to be found. These include Sweden’s Apollo 11 sample, stolen from a museum in 2002, and Malta’s Apollo 17 sample, stolen in 2004. These thefts have largely baffled both scientists and law enforcement officers, as without proper documentation these samples are totally unverifiable and completely worthless. And yet, years have passed without a single lead in almost every lunar sample theft case known in the world.
I’m not sure why this topic caught my eye, but I fell down the rabbit hole of missing space rocks while researching lost works of art and media. As it turns out, there are lots of things missing in this world. Some are movies made on flammable film, or censured books. In the case of the Amber Room, an entire Wonder of the World can go missing. Lots of people go missing every day – some through foul play, while others simply decide to walk away from their lives and into oblivion. While writing this, I am thinking about the latter option. How viable is it to disappear oneself today, in a world of ubiquitous technology and obnoxious-but-supposedly necessary legal identification requirements? If specks of dust worth more than I’ll ever earn in my lifetime can disappear, then I should be able to, too, right?
After I came home from work, I re-read the email. The job offer has rattled in my heart and brain all day. I am happy at my current job, but I am also not happy. The pros and cons of each position are seemingly equal. If I were to quit my job tomorrow, would I be able to provide an honest reason, one that will let me sleep at night? I am the only one at my current job with my particular skillset. I suddenly feel an increased sense of worth, but I don’t see somewhere to cash out. Honestly, I don’t think that either are the best choice. Maybe I’ll never respond to that email. Maybe I won’t go into work tomorrow. I choose to spend my evening finishing another beer and researching missing pieces of humanity’s history.