(CBS NEWS) — It’s been 50 years since the U.S. successfully put the first men on the moon. Between 1969 and 1972, NASA brought down more than 800 pounds of moon rocks, but questions remain over the whereabouts of some of those rocks.
Former NASA investigator Joe Gutheinz is a man on a mission, locating historic moon rocks brought back to earth from the Apollo space missions.
On July 16th, 1969, a team of astronauts set out to be the first crew to land on the moon. They brought back a stockpile of moon rocks, most of them ending up in Houston for research at NASA and on public display under the care of highly-trained NASA scientists at Space Center Houston.
President Nixon also gifted small samples from Apollo 11, like a “goodwill moon rock” in a window at the National Cathedral, to all 50 states and territories and countries around the world. But Gutheinz discovered many of those rocks are now unaccounted for.
“There were a number of moon rocks that were missing. So essentially nobody tracked these $5 million gifts that they were given by the Nixon Administration,” Gutheinz said,”it shocked me.” Many were either lost or sold on the black market. Some Apollo moon rocks were even at the center of a $20 million heist.
Gutheinz began tracking them down and has located about 80 so far.
“There was one that we found in a shoebox,” he said.
Gutheinz hopes getting the word out will help him locate more moon rocks around the world. He said, “I have no doubt that I will get leads predicated on this story.” With a little lunar luck he’ll find them.
Moon rocks can go for big money. In 2018, Sotheby’s legally auctioned a Russian moon rock totaling the weight of a raindrop for $855,000.
Experts say to contact NASA or state law enforcement if you think you have a lead to the missing moon rocks.