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The dark side of the moon rock

New York state owns a piece of the moon, and it's right here in the Capital District. But you won't see it anytime soon.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon presented moon rocks recovered from the Apollo 17 mission to 134 countries, all 50 states and Puerto Rico as a sign of goodwill and humanity's journey to the stars.

Nearly 36 years after being handed out, a majority of those moon rocks are unaccounted for, according to Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Phoenix Online professor and former senior special agent for NASA's Office of Inspector General.

In 1998, Gutheinz was a part of Operation Lunar Eclipse to uncover a $5 million moon rock, smuggled into the United States from Honduras. Gutheinz eventually found the rock being sold on the black market in Miami, Fla. Since 2002, he has instructed the students in his criminal justice course to track down the other missing moon rocks using the skills involved in a criminal investigation. Students are directed to call state museums and state offices in their search.

Most of the moon rocks we find in the states are locked away in storage and long forgotten, said Gutheinz. His students have located moon rocks across the globe, and when they find one, they are asked to send in their findings to local newspapers.

Recently, a student in Missouri found that one of the New York moon rocks on the list of missing or unaccounted samples is actually at the New York State Museum in downtown Albany.

Lisa Moore, a criminal justice graduate student at the University of Phoenix Online, said she "struck gold," or moon rock, when the second museum she called " the New York State Museum " ended her search for the lunar sample. She said the museum staff told her that the Apollo 17 moon rock was in the top security vault of the museum.

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