Moon rocks from the Apollo 11 moon landing found a safe home yesterday at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
The Minnesota National Guard recently found the moon rocks tucked away and forgotten among military artifacts in a storage unit in the Veteran's Service Building in St. Paul.
When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins returned to Earth on July 21,1969 after the first moon landing, they brought home several pounds of moon rocks. President Nixon then gave out many of the rocks, from both Apollo 11 and from later mission Apollo 17, as gifts to 135 nations and the 50 states.
Army Maj. Blane Ifferet, a former state historian for the National Guard, did some research on the lunar rocks after they were found.
"When I searched the Internet to find additional information about the moon rocks, I knew we had to find a better means to display this artifact," Iffert said. "It is stated on some websites that approximately 180 are currently unaccounted for ... we just lowered that number by one."
Many of the moon rocks are indeed unaccounted for, and have been lost, destroyed, or stolen and sold on the black market for approximately $5 million each, according to Joseph Gutheinz, a former senior special agent with the NASA office of the Inspector General.
Now a Texas-based attorney, Gutheinz has led a worldwide effort over the past ten years called "The Moon Rock Project" to recover these missing rocks. Before starting the Moon Rock Project, Gutheinz led the first of its kind sting operation to recover the Honduras Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock.
So far, Gutheinz's Moon Rock Project has located 79 moon rocks.
"The astronauts risked their lives going to the moon, and they deserve more accountability," Gutheinz said. "In this Minnesota case, the National Guard troops could have walked away with millions, but they did the right thing. I would love to give a medal to the person who found it."
Gutheinz believes the moon rocks are an important physical representation of a very important part of American history.
"When I think of Minnesota's moon rocks coming back, I think of little kids seeing them and being inspired to be an astronaut or do something big with their lives," he says. "It's one of the reasons the moon rocks are so special -- they inspire the imagination beyond."