Moon rocks from mankind's first landing more than 43 years ago have been discovered tucked away in a government storage area in St. Paul, and officials are at a loss to explain how they ended up there.
The five encased rocks -- little more than pebbles -- 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 a moon rock display from President Richard Nixon to commemorate the mission that put Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.
While Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind" is well remembered, the state's piece of that history was not.
"The Apollo 11 moon rocks were found amongst 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."
Those "better means" will be handled by the Minnesota Historical Society, which will take possession of the rocks in a transfer ceremony Wednesday at a gathering of children at Science and Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation and Space Exploration (STARBASE) Minnesota.
Located at the Minnesota Air National Guard base near Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, STARBASE educates and encourages urban youngsters in studying science, technology, engineering and math.
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.
Minnesota shouldn't feel too bad, though. Iffert said his research found that most moon rocks from the Apollo 11 and 17 missions that were given out by Nixon as goodwill gestures are unaccounted for.
"We are honored to have this in our collection to preserve for future generations," said Pat Gaarder, deputy director for the Minnesota Historical Society, 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."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482