BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Louisiana has recovered a missing moon rock donated to the state to commemorate the last manned U.S. mission to the moon after it found its way into the hands of a man who recycles wooden plaques.
The rock from the 1972 Apollo 17 landing was in the possession of the Louisiana State Museum on Tuesday, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported. It was returned to the state late last year by a Florida man who planned to use the wood from the plate that contained it to repair a gun, the newspaper said.
But the recovery was not revealed until Monday when a journalist and space historian Robert Pearlman reported it in the online publication CollectSpace, The Advocate said.
âAs you can understand, I’m just happy he’s here now,â Acting Museum Director Steven Maklansky said.
The lunar fragment was one of hundreds presented to states, territories and foreign nations in the early to mid-1970s by the administration of former President Richard Nixon. They include samples taken by Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew during the first moon landing in 1969.
But many of them then disappeared.
Louisiana also had an Apollo 11 rock that was believed to be missing, but The Advocate discovered that it was in storage at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.
How or when the rock from Apollo 17 went missing is not clear. It is encased in an acrylic ball which is attached to a wooden plaque with a miniature replica of the state flag and inscriptions.
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The Florida man who discovered it told Pearlman that he likely bought the plaque at a garage sale at some point in the past 15 years. He was collecting old plaques to use the wood to refurbish his rifle butts, and had recently discovered this one in his collection.
Pearlman said the man did not want to be identified.
Maklansky said the museum still plans to verify its authenticity, but officials have yet to decide what action to take.