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NASA Searches for Loot That Traveled From Space to Another Void

Sunday, January 22, 2012

HOUSTON — West Virginia absent one, until it angry up one June day on a bookshelf in the basement of a retired dentist. New York has one in a basement at a building in Albany, but addition one accustomed to the accompaniment for administration was not kept actual safe, because it appears to be missing, admitting the advocate general’s appointment has started attractive into the case.
Foto: Michael Stravato for The New York Times
A long-lost one in Colorado resurfaced at the home of a above governor, and addition one in Arkansas was begin amid above President Bill Clinton’s memorabilia. Somebody swiped one from a building in the island country of Malta, and somebody abroad who got his easily on one in Honduras approved to advertise it in Miami to an clandestine federal agent.
Rare art? Priceless jewels? Nothing so terrestrial.
All of these items were actually out of this world: moon rocks, meteorite samples and added alleged astromaterials that were lent to advisers by NASA or were offered as ability to American and adopted leaders.

Hundreds of moon rocks and added amplitude altar accept been lost, destroyed, baseborn or abide unaccounted for, some of which American astronauts and presidents presented to dignitaries about the country and the apple decades ago and others that NASA admiral lent for education, analysis and accessible display. The altar survived in alien amplitude for ages and accommodate some of the aboriginal samples anytime alternate from addition all-embracing body, but afterwards aloof a few abbreviate years on Earth they met the aforementioned fate as a set of car keys or a 29-cent postcard.

Six meteorite samples absent in the mail in 2004 were headed to a lab at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington and accept never been apparent since. In 1978, NASA lent a lunar sample deejay to the Mount Cuba Astronomical Anchor in Greenville, Del. By the time NASA inquired about the deejay added than 30 years later, the administrator amenable for it had died and the deejay — a six-inch bore deejay with clay and bedrock abstracts from the moon — was gone. NASA says the anchor could not locate it, but a affiliate of the observatory’s lath of advisers maintains that the administrator beatific it aback to NASA.

A allotment of the moon belief 1.1 grams — amid lunar samples calm by Apollo 17 astronauts in December 1972 — was accustomed to the governor of West Virginia added than one year later. Its abode were alien in contempo years, until the fragment resurfaced in June 2010, in a box in the basement bold allowance of Robert T. Conner, a retired dentist.

The alone affiliation amid him and the governor who was presented the lunar fragment, Arch A. Moore Jr., was Mr. Conner’s brother, who died in 2002. Mr. Moore had been a advocate in the Washington law close that the brother owned, and the box absolute the fragment included items from the man’s office. The fragment was about the admeasurement of a dime, encased in a Lucite brawl and army on a board plaque, and Mr. Conner had never accustomed it abundant thought.

“It was not clear at all, that’s for sure,” said Mr. Conner, 76. “I’ve apparent better-looking bowling trophies.”

Last month, NASA’s ambassador general, Paul K. Martin, bent that 517 moon rocks and added astromaterial samples that were lent amid 1970 and 2010 had been absent or stolen. A address issued by Mr. Martin’s appointment begin that 11 of the 59 advisers in the Houston and Washington areas who were audited could not annual for all of the samples NASA had lent them, or the bureau begin added discrepancies, including advisers who had items that according to bureau annal either did not abide or had been lent to others. The amplitude bureau had additionally bootless to amend its annal for 12 advisers who had died, retired or relocated, in some instances afterwards abiding the samples. One researcher, the address noted, still had lunar samples he had adopted 35 years beforehand admitting he never conducted analysis on them.

The address begin that Johnson Amplitude Center’s Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Appointment in Houston, which maintains NASA’s accumulating of 163,000 astromaterial samples, lacked acceptable ascendancy over its loans of moon rocks and added items for research, apprenticeship and accessible display. The samples that American and adopted dignitaries accustomed as ability were not included in the report, because the amplitude bureau does not clue them. Moon-rock experts say NASA should accumulate an account of those as well, and they appraisal that of about 400 moon rocks accustomed to accompaniment and apple leaders afterwards the Apollo 11 and 17 missions, about 200 accept been lost, destroyed or stolen.

Spokesmen for NASA in Washington and Houston said the losses appear by the ambassador accepted represented alone a baby atom of the tens of bags of astromaterial samples the amplitude bureau had lent to scientists about the apple for added than 40 years. In particular, the absent samples from the moon amounted to beneath than one-hundredth of 1 percent of the samples that were cautiously alternate in the accomplished four decades.
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