Attention, countries of the world: Do you know where your moon rocks are?
The discovery of a fake moon rock in the Netherlands’ national museum should be a wake-up call for more than 130 countries that received gifts of lunar rubble from both the Apollo 11 flight in 1969 and Apollo 17 three years later.
Nearly 270 rocks scooped up by US astronauts were given to foreign countries by the Nixon administration. But according to experts and research by AP, the whereabouts of some of the small 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 who has made a project of tracking down the lunar treasures.
The Rijksmuseum, more noted as a repository for 17th century Dutch paintings, announced last month it had had its plum-sized “moon” rock tested, only to discover it was a piece of petrified wood, possibly from Arizona. The museum said it inherited the rock from the estate of a former prime minister.
The real Dutch moon rocks are in a natural history museum. But the misidentification raised questions about how well countries have safeguarded their presents from the US.
Of 135 rocks from the Apollo 17 mission given away to nations or their leaders, only about 25 have been located by CollectSpace.com, a Website for space history buffs that has long attempted to compile a list.