Hawaii's missing $10m Moon rocks are finally found

Missing Moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions with an estimated worth of $10m have been found in Hawaii.

Under the orders of the then-US President Richard Nixon, the retrieved rocks were gifted to foreign nations and US states to commemorate mankind's successful voyages to the Moon between 1969-1974.

However, as we reported in September, 2009, it had since transpired that most of the 398 Moon fragments gifted to US states and other countries (the latter numbering 270 rocks) have since gone missing.

President Nixon photographed with Apollo 11's crew
President Nixon (photographed with
Apollo 11's crew) ordered the gifting
of the "Goodwill" Moon rocks

Today, the locations of only 25 of the 135 rocks retrieved by Apollo 17 are known, while less than a dozen of the 134 rocks brought back by Apollo 11 can be accounted for.

Last year, a declassified US State Department document emerged revealing the fates of some of the rocks.

According to the document, many recipient nations claimed to have never heard of the rocks, five were handed to African dictators now dead or deposed and, among the others, Malta's rock was stolen and Pakistan's is missing.

The US state of Hawaii was among the Moon rock recipients - and its fragments were on the 'unaccounted for' list.

In total, 398 Apollo-retrieved Moon rocks were gifted to US states and foreign nations

For a former NASA senior special agent turned Moon rock hunter, the mystery became a passionate quest.

Beginning in the 1990s, Joseph Gutheinz's mission brought him into contact with the governor's office, the Hawaii State Archives, the Bishop museum and the University of Hawaii, according to Hawaii's Honolulu Advertiser.

In its correspondence to Gutheinz, the State Department wrote that it "not only does not have the Moon rocks, but we have never heard of them!" and that "[we have] no idea where they are."

However, last Friday, Gutheinz's obsessive quest was brought to a random end - when the Hawaiian governor's office held an annual gift inventory...

Decades after they went missing, Hawaii's Moon rocks - with an estimated black market value of $10m - were reportedly found in a locked cabinet.

Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan
Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan was among
those who retrieved the Moon rocks

"We knew they were here," insisted Lenny Klompus, senior adviser to the governor, as quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser.

"We just weren't sure which cabinet they were in."

The rocks are reportedly encased in two clear plastic globes, containing three tiny Moon fragments from Apollo 11 and one larger single rock from Apollo 17, man's final Moon mission to-date.

Each globe is affixed to a wooden plaque.

"This is great news. This makes my day," Gutheinz reportedly said, upon hearing of the discovery.

However, for now, mystery still surrounds the other missing Moon fragments around the world.

Upon being gifted, each so-called "Goodwill Moon rock" became the property of the recipient, and therefore no longer subject to being tracked by NASA.

This makes the efforts of private hunters like Gutheinz all the more necessary.

With no further US Moon excursions planned, the missing rocks are highly valuable. For now, they remain as sought-after as they are elusive.


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Moon rock image: Heritage Auction Galleries

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