A collection of moon rocks that went missing from a museum in Alaska nearly four decades ago are headed back to their home in the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.
The moon rocks, said to be no bigger than the size of a pinky fingernail, went missing in 1973 after an arsonist torched the museum. The location of the moon rocks remained a mystery until 2010 when a foster son of the museum director claimed that he had them.
“These are all portions of the 40 pounds of moon rocks that Neil Armstrong collected on the Sea of Tranquility in July 1969,” said Steve Henrickson, curator of collections at the Alaska State Museum (via Alaska Public). “It’s mounted on a walnut base and it has a sphere of Plexiglas and the moon rocks are embedded in that. And right below that is an Alaska flag that also was carried to the moon on Apollo 11.”
In 1969, President Richard Nixon presented the moon rocks to Alaska Governor Keith Miller. The plate of moon rocks were shown off at several locations throughout the state over the following years until their disappearance in 1973. All of the other states got a similar plate.
The moon rocks were in the possession of Arthur ‘Colman’ Anderson from Texas. Anderson recently filed a lawsuit against the state in an attempt to get himself declared as the moon rocks’ rightful owner after they were given to him by his foster father. Alternatively, Anderson wanted to be paid a sum of money for taking care of them.
Eventually, Anderson was persuaded to drop the case and hand the moon rocks back over to the state. Although he won’t be getting paid for it, his attorney, Daniel P. Harris, thinks he at least deserves some recognition.
“He recovered those moon rocks. Without him, who knows where they could be or whether they would exist today. But in the end, the state was unwilling to pay any reward,” Harris said. “It just was not worth Coleman’s time or money to fight the state on that.”