Armstrong Air and Space Museum
The city opened the Armstrong Air and Space Museum dedicated to him after three years of his legendary walk on the moon - File Photo REUTERS/Matt Sullivan

A week after the world celebrated the 48th anniversary of the moon landing, a replica of the lunar space module that carried Neil Armstrong to the lunar surface has been stolen from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum at Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Wapakoneta police are on the lookout for the thieves who broke into the museum and made away with the solid-gold model of the module.

The replica was discovered missing from the museum after police responding to a burglary alarm just before Friday (28 July) midnight, a police statement said.

Police also confirmed that only three such replicas existed. The replica was designed by renowned French jeweller Societe Cartier, one for each of the astronauts on the mission, the statement said.

The models were presented to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in Paris soon after the completion of the Apollo 11 mission, a police spokesman said. The rare item measures about 5in high and roughly 4.5in square.

The value of the item cannot be determined, the police department was quoted as saying by NBC News.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are assisting the Wapakoneta police in this case.

The museum on its Facebook page said, "Theft from a museum is a theft from all of us."

Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon on 21 July, 1969, was born near Wapakoneta. He is best known for his words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," after he set foot on the moon.

The city opened a museum dedicated to him three years after his legendary walk on the moon.

Lunar landing mission

Nasa's Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the moon. The main objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a goal set by President John F Kennedy on 25 May 1961 to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Forty eight years ago, on 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the surface of earth's satellite.

Armstrong left a plaque bearing two drawings of Earth with an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and President Nixon, on the moon. The inscription read, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."

In 2009, the three astronauts were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, considered to be the highest civilian award in the United States.