The Man, the Moon, and the Lawsuit

The United States, over the years, collected two hundred and thirty moon rocks. About half are missing. Now a lawsuit is under way to figure out who has the rights to a rock that took a turn into private hands.

The US government should have its hands on a lot more moon than it does. Although the many moon missions brought back over two hundred samples of rock, half are nowhere to be found. Joe Gutheinz is a former investigator for NASA and has been trying to track them down. He started this career in the 1990s, when, in a move that is crying out to be the central plot in an action film, he went undercover to hunt down a particular moon rock that had been stolen from Honduras and was being offered by traders on the black market for five million dollars. The rocks are a prestige item, since they have no chemical or, at this point, scientific value to them. There is, however, a black market in fake moon rocks - yet another concept for a fantastic film.

The Man, the Moon, and the Lawsuit

Since his time as the James Bond of NASA, Gutheinz has become an attorney and teacher, whose students track down missing moon rocks as an exercise. Apparently several were in the homes of former governors who took them home after they left office. Some had been destroyed. Some were just misplaced. One, given to the state of Alaska and thought to be lost in seventies, when the Anchorage Museum burned down, has turned up in the position of one Coleman Anderson, who says he found it picking through the wreckage of the museum. Anderson's story is that he found it when he was 17, among debris that was being hauled away as waste, and has kept it ever since. He disclosed the fact that he had it by filing a lawsuit in an Alaska court, following a published article in an Alaska paper by Elizabeth Riker, one of Gutheinz's students. She'd attempted to find the moon rock, and when she couldn't tried to rally support for a renewed search by going public with the loss. Anderson wants compensation for the return of the rock. The state filed its own suit in return, asking for the rock plus damages, and the matter will be decided by the courts.

So who owns the moon?

Image: NASA

Via Seattle Times.