Moon Rocks From Apollo 11 Are Discovered in Minnesota National Guard Storage Area

Many of the lunar rocks given away following the Apollo 11 and 17 missions have gone unaccounted for and periodically turn up in weird places.

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NASA

When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins came back to Earth on July 24, 1969, they brought 22 kilograms of lunar rocks home. President Nixon gave out many of those rocks as gifts, including a little desktop display and plaque that went to each state. Over the years, some of those rocks were lost, and now, five of them have been found -- in a storage area belonging to the Minnesota National Guard.

As the Star Tribune's Paul Walsh reports:

Moon rocks from mankind's first landing more than 43 years ago have been discovered tucked away in a government storage area in St. Paul, and officials are at a loss to explain how they ended up there.

The five encased rocks -- little more than pebbles -- are part of a desktop display that includes a small state of Minnesota flag that was among the 50 from every state that made the trip aboard Apollo 11.

Each state received a moon rock display from President Richard Nixon to commemorate the mission that put Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

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

The rocks will be transferred to the Minnesota Historical Society in a ceremony on Wednesday.

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The desktop display case, with close-ups of the plaque and moon pebbles (Minnesota National Guard)

Rocks from the Apollo 11 mission are notorious for their ability to disappear into archives, basements, or the wrong hands. As Alexis Madrigal reported in 2010 upon the discovery of a set of moon rocks in Hawaii in 2010, lunar rock hunters had ascertained the locations of 42 of 193 lunar-rock gifts from the Apollo 11 mission. "The moon rock situation finds NASA in the awkward position of losing control of its own legacy," Madrigal wrote. "Though the rocks and their presentation are a fascinating moment in the agency's history, the legions of bureaucrats and politicians who received them do not appear to have quite the same level of interest in space-age history."



H/t @paleofuture

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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