BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has recovered a missing lunar rock gifted to the state to commemorate the last manned U.S. mission to the moon after it turned up in 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 wood from the plaque that held it to repair a gun, according to the newspaper.
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.
“As you can appreciate, I’m just happy that it is here now,” museum interim 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 later went missing.
Louisiana also had an Apollo 11 rock that was thought to be missing, but The Advocate discovered it was in storage at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.
How or when the Apollo 17 rock went missing is not clear. It is encased in an acrylic ball that is attached to a wooden plaque with a miniature replica of the state flag and inscriptions.
The Florida man who discovered it told Pearlman he likely bought the plaque at a garage sale at some point in the past 15 years. He had been gathering old plaques to use the wood to refurbish the stocks on his guns, 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 review its authenticity, but officials haven’t decided what steps they will take.