In 1973, President Nixon gave 135 pea-sized moon rock fragments as “goodwill” gifts to 135 nations. Today nobody seems to know the exact whereabouts of most of those precious samples, all embedded in clear acrylic balls. Most recently, a rock given to Malta disappeared from a museum there, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Malta’s lunar larceny fits a trend, some experts say. The rocks could be in a museum display or a dictator’s desk drawer or, as in Canada, gathering dust in a museum storage room. They are valuable, worth millions of dollars each. “I would not be surprised if half of those 135 moon rocks have been stolen, or lost, or are now in a position where they could be stolen,” says a former NASA investigator. “I’ve been contacting museums around the world, and I’m not having responses I would have expected. There’s no real sense that any but a few of these moon rocks can be accounted for.”