Museum's 'moon rock' is mere wood

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The Dutch national museum said Thursday that one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by US astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood.

Rijksmuseum spokeswoman Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation that proved the piece was a fake, said the museum will keep it anyway as a curiosity.

"It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," she said. "We can laugh about it."

The museum acquired the rock after the death of former prime minister Willem Drees in 1988. Drees had received it as a private gift on 9 October 1969 from the then-US ambassador J William Middendorf during a visit by the three Apollo 11 astronauts.

Middendorf, who lives in Rhode Island, told Dutch broadcaster NOS news that he had received it from the US State Department. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The US embassy in the Hague said it was investigating the matter.