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NASA loses hundreds of its Moon rocks, new report says

Over 500 of NASA’s Moon rocks collected by the Apollo astronauts appear to be lost or misplaced. In a recent audit released Thursday, NASA’s Office of Inspector General said it “lacks sufficient controls over its loans of moon rocks and other astromaterials, which increases the risk that these unique resources may be lost.”

NASA/Sean Smith

In a recent indecent a woman was thwarted by NASA in an attempt to sell one of the loaned moon rocks for $1.7 million. This, of course, has caused NASA to re-think its loaning and record keeping process.

“NASA has been experiencing loss of astromaterials since lunar samples were first returned by Apollo missions,” inspector general Paul K. Martin detailed in the report. “In addition to the Mount Cuba disk, NASA confirmed that 516 other loaned astromaterials have been lost or stolen between 1970 and June 2010, including 18 lunar samples reported lost by a researcher in 2010 and 218 lunar and meteorite samples stolen from a researcher at [NASA's Johnson Space Center] in 2002, but since recovered.”

The report also mentioned records of hundreds of samples no longer existed, and 12 researches who were loaned some rocks have since died–without the office’s knowledge. Out of 26,000 samples loaned, NASA has lost a total of 517. While the number might not seem that high, the items themselves are priceless.

Robert Pearlman, editor at,  said ”That’s not to excuse the space agency and its curators, but with so many samples spread across the globe, some losses are probably to be expected.”

Totalling 842 pounds (382 kilograms), moon rocks were collected between 1969 to 1972 by 12 astronauts during the Apollo program over six runs. NASA loans samples to museums, educators, and researchers–but says it needs to keep better control of what it loans.




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