The Marie Drake Planetarium

Where the stars always shine in Juneau, AK

Alaska's Moon Rock 

Alaska's Apollo moon rocks, missing since 1973, back on display

Alaska News article by Laurel Andrews 2012
COLD CASE: Recovering Alaska’s Long-Lost Apollo 11 Moon Rock.

On Thursday, the Alaska State Museum in Juneau started displaying Alaska's long-lost moon rocks – some of the rarest rocks on planet Earth – for the first time since 1973, when they vanished following a museum fire.

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 state, 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.

However, the Alaska Department of Law persuaded Anderson to drop the case, and two years later, on Sept. 27, 2012, the state again became custodians to the rocks.

Bob Banghart, chief curator of the Alaska State Museums, told Alaska Dispatch that the plaque is "actually the property of the U.S. government," and the state of Alaska is acting as steward of the lunar rocks.

The rocks will be on display through December. The museum will then pull the rocks from display and do some restoration work on the plaque, Banghart said.

krupt Spitz sailed to Europe. Far from lights on shore he fell in love with the night sky and threw himself into astronomy. The rest is history. His first models had input from Albert Einstein. He sold more than a million home planetariums which you can still find on eBay.
In 1973, after a fire tore through the State of Alaska's transportation museum, a display containing moon rocks and a small
Alaska Flag from the first manned mission to the moon vanished without a trace. Forty years later, it suddenly surfaced, and
the Alaska State Museum, State of Alaska Attorney General's Office, U.S. Attorney, FBI, and NASA teamed up to try to
bring it home. This presentation, by the Alaska State Museum’s Curator of Collections, Steve Henrikson, highlights how
dedication, ethics, teamwork, painstaking research, science and good luck resulted in the return of the moon rock display to
the people of Alaska in 2012.