There are so few moon rocks (that is, rocks from the Moon. Confusing, I know) on Earth that they’re considered priceless. Twenty years ago, 0.2 grams of lunar rock sold at auction for more than four hundred thousand dollars. There are indeed many tiny pieces of lunar rock in the possession of various museums and governments around the world, and only partially because of the goodwill rock, a specimen chosen specifically by the astronauts of Apollo 17, the last Apollo mission, to be broken up and distributed with a piece for 135 nations, and every U.S. state and territory.
But when that happened, Alaska already had their moon rocks. But then in 1973 they literally lost them in a fire.
The Alaska Transportation Museum was the victim of arson in 1973, and although there were witnesses claiming they’d seen the plaque containing the moon rocks survive the fire, they were never actually recovered. At least, not by anybody the museum was aware of, until almost twenty years later. From MSNBC:
Coleman Anderson, a vessel captain who appeared in early episodes of the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” said he had rescued the moon rocks. He sued for clear title but said he would be willing to sell them to the state. State officials questioned Anderson’s account and countersued.
Anderson maintained that he’d rescued the rocks and their display from the rubble of the burned museum when he was seventeen, contradicting multiple other witnesses that remembered seeing the rocks with other surviving pieces from the museum fire. So, yeah, we’re gonna call shenanigans on the whole “hey I rescued your priceless science rocks when I was a kid, and now I’m holding them for ransom” thing. So did Alaska’s Assistant Attorney General Neil Slotnick, who says Anderson was persuaded to dismiss the case after the evidence against his claim was laid out to him. Anderson officially relenquished his claim on the rocks in September, and they were picked up in Texas and delivered to the museum this week.
Ahh, happy endings.