It was a simple request: Nancy Munie wanted a little moondust after the Apollo 11 astronauts returned from their historic trip to the moon in 1969.
In a letter to NASA, the Belleville teen explained why she should be eligible and provided supporting documents. Her uncle had given her a quitclaim deed to an acre of land on the moon in 1955, and it had been properly recorded by the St. Clair County recorder of deeds.
NASA’s associate general counsel actually responded.
“It would be impossible to grant your request for a sample of the materials brought back from the moon,” he wrote. “These are presently being analyzed by scientists from many countries, and none are available as souvenirs.”
Nancy may have been rejected by the government, but she became something of a celebrity in Belleville, where residents found her efforts amusing.
“Belleville girl stakes moon land claim,” one newspaper headline read.
Nancy Munie now is Nancy Munie-Boerngen, 68, a retired business teacher at Belleville East High School. She lives in Chenot Place with her husband, Eldon Boerngen, who formerly taught accounting at East.
As the U.S. celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing last weekend, Nancy was reminded of her 15 minutes of fame. She dug out a red scrapbook containing the deed and other materials she had saved.
“That was a fun summer,” she said. “First, they called me up to the courthouse to take a picture, and then I got a letter from NASA, and people around town knew about it. Then when I went back to college, I took the news articles and showed everybody. It was exciting.”
It all started with Uncle Dick
When Nancy was 5, her uncle, H.W. “Dick” Miller, gave her an unusual Christmas present: An official-looking quitclaim deed to an acre of land on the northeast quadrant of the moon from the Interplanetary Development Corp. It also included “beach rights at the Sea of Tranquility.”
The deed, which came with a detailed brochure about the property, was a running family joke.
“Growing up, whenever I’d misbehave, my mom would say, ‘Watch out because I’m going to send you to that acre of land on the moon,’” Nancy said.
Nancy was an 18-year-old student at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston by the time astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. She watched it on TV with her family.
A few weeks later, a local newspaper got wind of Nancy’s deed and published a story about it. That prompted a call from the St. Clair County Courthouse, inviting her to have the deed recorded.
When Nancy arrived at the courthouse, a cameraman was waiting to capture the moment.
“Without cracking a smile, Recorder of Deeds Thomas F. Elliott today dutifully recorded title to an acre of land on the moon,” the newspaper reported.
The story noted that Elliott charged the usual $3 recording fee.
Grandpa wrote letter to NASA
The silliness may have stopped there if not for Nancy’s grandfather, L. David Mantle, who wrote the letter to NASA on Oct. 2, 1969, and signed her name.
“It appears that Apollo 11 landed on my acre on the Moon,” the letter stated. “Consequently, I would greatly appreciate being furnished with a 145th sample of rock-soil-sand collected by the Astronauts from my Moon holdings.”
Nancy received a reply three weeks later from Associate General Counsel E.M. Shafer on NASA letterhead.
“You appear to be aware already that your deed is an interesting but efficacious document,” he wrote. “Legally, the grantor conveyed to you only the same right, title and interest in the area described in the deed as he himself possessed. Unfortunately for you, he possessed absolutely nothing.”
Adhered to the bottom of the letter were four 10-cent “First Man on the Moon” stamps and one 4-cent “Project Mercury” stamp.
Nancy went on to graduate from Eastern with a degree in business education. She taught at Belleville East for 26 years before retiring in 2000.
Recent media coverage of the moon landing has brought back many fond memories for Nancy, but also a realization.
“When they started talking about what happened 50 years ago, it kind of dawned on me how old I am,” she said with a grin.