Missing moon rocks found in Minnesota storage site

Eric Pfeiffer

Several rocks taken from humankind's first lunar landing have been unearthed once again, with the moon rocks this time turning up in a Minnesota storage area.

The Star Tribune reports that the pebble-sized samples collected by the Apollo 11 voyage in 1969 somehow ended up in a government storage area in St. Paul.

"The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found amongst military artifacts in a storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul," Army Maj. Blane Iffert, the former state historian for the Minnesota National Guard, told the paper. "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."

Each state was given a sample of the moon rocks after Apollo 11's successful voyage.

On Wednesday, the rocks will be transferred to the state's Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) educational program.

Even if Iffert had wanted to sell the rocks, rather than donate them, he wouldn't have had much of a choice. As CBS News notes, moon rocks are considered a national treasure and selling them is illegal.

But before anyone starts making jokes at Minnesota's expense, Iffert says his discovery actually puts the state on the brighter side of moon rock history.

Reportedly, 180 of the 270 Goodwill Moon Rock samples former President Nixon gave to the 50 states after the Apollo 11 and 17 missions are currently unaccounted for.

Former NASA investigator  Joseph Gutheinz said 11 states are currently missing their moon rock samples from the Apollo 11 mission, including Alaska, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Texas.

"We are honored to have this in our collection to preserve for future generations," said Pat Gaarder, deputy director for the Minnesota Historical Society, in a statement. "It is also exciting to think that our collection includes artifacts from across the globe and, now with these moon rocks, the galaxy."