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Fri Dec 7, 2012, 12:57 PM

Alaska's long-lost moon rocks back on display in Juneau

Laurel Andrews | Dec 06, 2012

... The rocks, collected on the Apollo XI mission in 1969, were presented to Alaska’s Gov. Keith Miller by President Nixon. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong gathered around 48.5 pounds of the rocks during the mission, the first geological samples of lunar rocks ever collected.

NASA created identical plaques to present to every states, with a walnut base, angled face-plate and dense, black moon rock fragments covered in plastic. Alaska's plaque has a state flag that also traveled to the moon with Apollo XI. The plaque was on display at the Transportation Museum in Juneau until 1973, when an arsonist set fire to the building and the rocks vanished in the aftermath.

The whereabouts of the moon rocks were unknown until 2010, when Coleman Anderson filed action against the state of Alaska seeking to be declared owner of the moon rocks, under the premise that the state had abandoned the property.

Anderson was the foster child of a museum employee who, according to court testimony of a museum official, took the artifacts home for safe-keeping during clean-up, and left them in a storage facility; Anderson testified that he found the plaque in debris on the museum floor. Either way, his foster parent left the state, and Anderson gained sole possession of the rocks. When Anderson moved out of state, he took the plaque with him. It would be 37 years before he filed suit against the state for ownership ...


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