Missing from the Museum: Moon Rocks


By Carla Charter

Professor, Lawyer and former NASA agent Joseph R. Gutheinz, Jr.  is on the search for missing Moon Rocks and he is succeeding. Of the 270 given out only 135 are still missing. We went to the moon in 1969 and 1972. “These times made always thought we would go back and collect rocks galore.  Russia sent an unmanned flight in 1976. Because of that there was not a lot of accounting for the rocks.”

NASA did not track the moon rocks given out and the states didn’t enter them into their record systems.

His Moon Rock Project to locate and bring the rocks back to their appropriate locations within states and countries began in 2002.    He served as a special agent with NASA and working with a postal inspector was involved in a sting operation to capture people selling bogus Moon Rocks.  concerned about the sale of Bogus Moon Rocks.  “In December 18,1998 we took out a quarter page ad in USA today showing an  astronaut jumping on the moon with a caption that read Moon Rocks wanted.” As a result of this sting Gutheinz received a call from someone who said they had a real moon rock to sell.

A photo of the rock showed it was mounted on a 10×14 inch plaque in a Lucite ball with tape across the center of the flag so the country the rock belonged to could not be identified.  Another plate with the name of the recipient country was also covered up. In central and South America there are 6 countries flags which are the same except for the center. It’s the first-time sting operation closing in on real Apollo Moon Rock not someone selling bogus junk.



I educated myself about the flags and called embassies representing the different countries and no one seemed to know where the rocks were. We now knew there were at least six countries that didn’t know where there moon rocks were. This is the first time we knew there was a problem with moon rocks everywhere.

The seller wanted 5 million dollars for the moon rock that was was 1.42 grams. While trying to find out of this was a reasonable amount he found that a moon rock of .2 grams at Sothebys in 1993 sold for $442,500.

Gutheinz also talked to an astronaut who worked in the post NASA era and explained he was trying to figure out how much a moon rock was worth.  The astronaut replied, “ I don’t have a clue what it is worth, but I can tell you what it means to me. From the moment I could walk I wanted to be a pilot. As a child I went into a museum and walked up and approached a moon rock. I still wanted to be a pilot but there I realized I wanted to be pilot in space.”  Gutheinz continued, “I started thinking about the kids around the world like him, especially in third world countries without the advantages we have in the United States, who might have dreams as well. ”   The sting operation was able to get the moon rock back and return it to the Honduran Government where it belonged.

Gutheinz has also involved his students in the search and they have recovered a total number of 80 rocks. From the Apollo 11 there are now two missing moon rocks including one from New York given to Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the Delaware Historical Society had one ripped of their plaque. From Apollo 17 there are rocks missing from Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and South Carolina. Those with information about missing Moon Rocks can contact Gutheinz joe.gutheinz@gutheinz.com

The undercover sting operation, Operation Lunar Eclipse, has been made into a movie by Statement Pictures titled appropriately Operation Lunar Eclipse, and it comes out next year, Gutheinz said.