Last month, the Netherlands' national museum announced that it had tested its prized 'moon rock' - and discovered that it was actually petrified wood, possibly from Arizona.

The real Dutch moon rocks - inherited from a former prime minister in 1992 - were thankfully eventually located in a natural history museum.  

But, according to the Associated Press, the misidentification has raised questions: just how well have other countries looked after their gifts from Washington?

Nearly 270 moon rocks retrieved by US astronauts were given to foreign countries by President Richard Nixon's administration.

But the whereabouts of some of the smaller rocks are unknown.

"There is no doubt in my mind that many moon rocks are lost or stolen and now sitting in private collections," said Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Arizona instructor and former US government investigator.

Gutheinz has made a project of tracking down the lunar treasures.

Of 135 rocks from the Apollo 17 mission given away to nations or their leaders, the whereabouts of only 25 of them are known.

The outlook for tracking the estimated 134 Apollo 11 rocks is even bleaker. The locations of fewer than a dozen are known.

So, AP has read over some declassified documents sent between the State Department and various US embassies in 1973.

It's findings have shed new light, and also revealed the whereabouts of 10 other Apollo moon rocks. AP's list reads as follows:

  • Several nations said they had never heard of the rocks
  • Five rocks were handed to African dictators who are long-since dead or deposed
  • During a sting operation to uncover fake rocks in 1998, Gutheinz was offered a real Apollo 17 rock - the one given to Honduras - for $5 million. It was returned to Honduras
  • Malta's rock was stolen in 2004
  • In Spain, the newspaper El Mundo reported this summer that the rock given to the country's former dictator, Francisco Franco, is missing. Franco's grandson was quoted as saying that his mother lost it
  • Romania's rock disappeared after the fall and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989
  • Pakistan's is missing; so is Nicaragua's, since the Sandinistas came to power in 1979. Afghanistan's Apollo 17 rock sat in Kabul's national museum until it was ransacked in 1996.

The lack of detailed records surrounding the moon rocks is due to the fact that few people expected Apollo 17 to be man's last ever moon mission, reports AP.

NASA keeps most of the 842 pounds of rocks gathered by the Apollo missions locked away. Small samples are given to researchers, and larger rocks donated to exhibitions.

Given NASAs inability to organise future moon missions due to a lack of funding it's almost guaranteed that items relating to the moon landings will continue to increase in value due to their increased rarity. 

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