Moon Rock Hunting: Former NASA Investigator Close to Finding All Missing Lunar Rocks From the 1969 Apollo 11 Mission

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After Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew came back from the mission to the moon, they brought some gifts: lunar rocks. President Richard Nixon’s administration decided it was only fair to give each US state a piece of lunar rock.

However, in time, many of them vanished. This is where, after years of hunting down each piece of rock, Joseph Gutheinz, lawyer and former NASA investigator is almost closing in on the last missing pieces.

Finding 50 Moon Rocks

The moon rock hunter found a few weeks ago two rocks in Louisiana and Utah – which haven’t been found since 1969. He now has to find the ones from New York and Delaware.

Gutheinz can’t believe how the states didn’t bother to chronicle and save the precious items, “a tangible piece of history.” However, he hopes that he will locate the last two before next year when it’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

“Neil Armstrong’s first mission … was to reach down and grab some rocks and dust in case they needed to make an emergency take-off,” added Gutheinz.

According to Gutheinz, the US administration gave small lunar samples to all 50 states and other 135 countries, but many have disappeared or weren’t even officially recorded.

The samples were encased in acrylic and placed on a wooden plaque, each carrying the state flag. Some of them were taken to museums, and others were displayed in state capitols.

However, almost none of the US states added the lunar pieces in their archives, losing track of them.

Gutheinz started his task in 2002 and found out that 40 states had no idea where the lunar pieces were.

“I think part of it was, we honestly believed that going back to the moon was going to be a regular occurrence,” Gutheinz said.

There were five more journeys to the moon, and the last landing was made by Apollo 17, in 1972.

What’s even more baffling is that the US states and other countries received a second set of moon rocks after the last Apollo mission, and many of them are missing too.

Gutheinz’s mission began a long time ago when he was working as an investigator for NASA. There, he discovered that lunar rocks were worth millions of dollars on the black market. Genuine moon rocks are national treasures and cannot be sold in the US.

As for the two last pieces, Gutheinz will have a tough mission: the New York state museum has no record of the lunar rock, and the sample in Delaware was stolen from the museum in 1977, and never found.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.