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Moon rocks from mankind’s maiden voyage nearly 50 years ago have reportedly been found in a government storage area in Minnesota — and officials are unsure how they got there.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports 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.
"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.
The Minnesota Historical Society will take possession of the rocks during a ceremony Wednesday at Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) Minnesota, the newspaper reports.
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."