Five of the missing lunar stones collected by Apollo 11 were found Monday, November 26, in a state building in St. Paul by the Minnesota National Guard.“The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found amongst military artifacts in a storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul,” declared Army Maj. Blane Iffert, a retired state historian for the Minnesota National Guard, as cited by Space.
The findings are part of a larger series of moon rocks, dirt and shingle brought on Earth by the first humans to step on the moon – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – in the 1969 Apollo 11 moon expedition.
Being gifted to the U.S. in plastic cases as a sign of willingness after the return of Apollo's crew from the mission, some of the moon pieces got lost in time and haven't been yet found in 11 states, including Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin.
The rocks are considered a national treasure of the United States and their trading is legal inside the country. Due to their high prices, many of the samples have been stolen or sold on the black market, which made officials lose their track.
“It is stated on some websites that approximately 180 [sample displays] are currently unaccounted for of the 270 moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 missions. We've just lowered that number by one,” Iffert said.
The Minnesota moon rocks have been searched by students at the University of Phoenix since 2002, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
“Somebody in the National Guard there decided to do the right thing and rather than walk off with something that had a great value on the black market, said, 'Hey, this doesn't belong to me’,” said Joseph Gutheinz, professor at the University of Phoenix and a former NASA special agent.
The missing Apollo 11 moon rocks’ search by the U.S. officials is slow and difficult inside the country, but even more so outside it, since some of the samples were secretly placed in foreign countries.