Minn. Guard to hand over Apollo 11 moon rocks today

Buzz and Neil found them. Now Minnesota has them. But not for long.

A handful of rock fragments collected during the first moon landing in 1969 by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were found in government storage area in St. Paul Monday -- and the Minnesota National Guard plans to turn to the Minnesota Historical Society in a ceremony Wednesday.

The handoff takes place at an event with students at STARBASE Minnesota, a math and science program.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune first reported Tuesday morning that the five encased rocks found in the St. Paul facility are part of a desktop display that includes a small Minnesota flag that was among those from every state that made the trip aboard Apollo 11. Each state received such a display from President Richard Nixon to commemorate the mission that put Neil Armstrong on the moon on July 20, 1969.


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"The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found among military artifacts in a storage area at the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul," said Army Maj. Blane Iffert, former state historian for the Minnesota National Guard. "When I searched the Internet to find additional information about the moon rocks, I knew we had to find a better means to display this artifact."

Most moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and 17 missions that were given out by Nixon as goodwill gestures are unaccounted for, Iffert said.

Maj. Kristen Auge of the Minnesota National Guard said she has "no idea how the moon rocks came into our possession" or how long they were the storage area.

"We are honored to have this in our collection to preserve for future generations," Pat Gaarder, deputy director for the Minnesota Historical Society, said in a statement. "It is also exciting to think that our collection includes artifacts from across the globe and now with these moon rocks, the galaxy."

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