Skip to comments.Trenton, we have a problem: NJ’s souvenir moon rock missing since 1970s
Posted on 07/25/2010 12:22:01 PM PDT by Coleus
New Jerseys souvenir of Apollo 17 safely traveled 240,000 miles. After touchdown in Trenton, it went poof. Thats basically the story of the Garden States Goodwill Moon Rock, a prize divided among 50 states and about 130 countries to commemorate NASAs last manned mission to the lunar surface. Nearly 38 years later, the stateside relics those whose whereabouts are known are treasured public property worth perhaps millions of dollars.
New Hampshires rock is in the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. Wisconsin displays its gift at the Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bicycle Museum, alongside a bike that doubles as a lawnmower and a 1962 space suit. Massachusetts is at the Museum of Science in Boston. New Jersey, it appears, lost the thing. If it had come to the State Museum, I would surely know. Ive been the principal geologist here since 1971, said David Parris, a State Museum curator who oversees an earlier gift of moon rocks from the Apollo 11 mission.
It wasnt familiar to Gregory F. Herzog, a Rutgers cosmochemist whose specialty extraterrestrial materials, according to his Web page demands lots of time with moon rocks. It didnt remotely register with former Gov. Brendan Byrne and his onetime chief of staff, Charles C. Carella. In 1976, astronaut Paul Weitz came to Trenton to present the shard, encased in plastic and mounted on a wooden plaque adorned with a tiny New Jersey state flag.
The lunar rock will soon be placed on public display, according to the Governors Office, says a three-paragraph story from United Press International. That didnt happen.
Joseph Gutheinz, a retired NASA investigator, suggests some radically different fates: lost amid the archives of bureaucracy or swiped and sold to someone willing to pay $5 million or more. Thats the price sought in 1998 by a Miami collector who had come into possession of Honduras rock, which Gutheinz recovered in a sting. If that price seems high, consider the size of each sample. At a bit over 1 gram, it would take about 28 such shards to make an ounce.
A lot of states and governments didnt realize the value of these rocks, Gutheinz said. Some of them did, and protected them. In other cases, they probably are in private possession. Last year, the Riiksmuseum in the Netherlands confirmed that one of its rocks supposedly collected by the Apollo 11 crew was a fake. The whereabouts of the original are unknown.
Gutheinz now teaches a University of Phoenix masters-level course in forensic investigation, and each term he assigns his students to locate NASAs gifts. Nineteen states and 94 countries cant account for their Goodwill rock, according to CollectSpace.com, a Houston-based catalog of space artifacts. Jaime Burgos of Philadelphia, a 32-year-old student assigned to New Jerseys rock, thought the task would involve a few phone calls. Instead hes bounced from the State Museum to the Governors Office to Princeton University to Liberty Science Center. No one, he said, was aware that New Jersey received an Apollo 17 memento.
Even if they had it in storage, in a closet somewhere, I would think they would know its there, Burgos said. Im calling all these different people to ask where it is. As soon as I mention that theyre worth, like, a million dollars, theyre, like, Oh, really? Where do you think it is? And I say, Well, thats why Im asking you, sir. For Burgos, the assignment has seeded a wonder that he says will last after the course ends.
Considering how much work Ive put into this, I have a feeling that Im going to keep making phone calls until I find it, he said. For Paul Weitz, a veteran of a Skylab mission and the maiden Challenger flight, the feeling is more anger than curiosity. He was among the NASA astronauts recruited to help the Apollo 17 crew distribute the Goodwill rocks, an assignment that took him to New Jersey on March 19, 1976.
The idea behind handing all these things out it wasnt meant to be put in a governors office or in the desk drawer somewhere, Weitz said in a telephone interview from his home in Arizona. Trenton didnt much impress a guy who had spent 33 days in space. He recalls nothing of his trip to New Jersey not even whether the presentation was a public ceremony or a quick visit with, say, the governor or a member of his staff.
I do remember Sacramento, because Ronald Reagan was governor at the time, Weitz said. I remember Madison, Wis., because I met Oscar Mayer there. A small degree of hope exists for New Jerseys piece of Apollo 17. The relic intended for Cyprus but never awarded the island was gripped by coup at the time was offered for sale in 2003, but was returned to NASA earlier this month.
And in January, Hawaii reported the rediscovery of moon rocks from Apollo 17 and Apollo 11. The location: a locked filing cabinet.
I would not be surprised if the lib crooks in NJ figured some way to blame governor for this.
The rock AND my tax dollars.
That’s what’s so great about New Jersey. Anything is possible.
Beat me to it.
That could be their state slogan.
Come to New Jersey and Go Missing!
The de-emphasis on science and space has been going on a long time. These were supposed to invoke wonder, awe, and inspire others to reach for the stars....not be paperweights or stuffed in a file drawer.
Another example of why government cannot be trusted with health care. A government that can’t keep track of a few hundred rocks obtained at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars isn’t capable of responsibly administering the health care records of 300 million citizens.
Just look for the first dem politician to have access to it. You’ll find it in his den.
Thanks Coleus. The *real* reason is, the Moon landings were all faked in a Hollywood studio. /sarc
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.