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Arkansas' Missing Moon Rock Turns Up In Boxes Of Clinton's Memorabilia

July 20, 1969: astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr.  on the moon.
Neil Armstrong/NASA
July 20, 1969: astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. on the moon.

That's one small step for historians ...

We'll stop there and just go to the news:

"An archivist sifting through boxes of former President Bill Clinton's papers and memorabilia from his time as Arkansas governor [has] found a missing moon rock given to the state 35 years ago," the Arkansas News Bureau reports.

It seems that sometime after the rock, one of many sent to governors and heads of state more than 35 years ago, was given to then-Arkansas Gov. David Pryor in 1976 it got put away. And it's probably been in a box of Clinton's memorabilia for at least 30 years, says Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

Most likely, it was put in storage after Clinton lost his first re-election bid in 1980 and then not brought out again when he regained the governor's mansion after the 1982 election.

Other moon samples have also gone missing or turned up in odd places over the years. New Jersey's was reported lost last year. Alaska's seems to have ended up with a man who says he found it after a fire at the Alaska State Museum. Colorado's turned up at an ex-governor's home. Hawaii's was found stored away in a cabinet in the governor's office last year.

Wiredreported last year that "of the 193 rocks distributed after Apollo 11, Robert Pearlman's CollectSPACE website has only ascertained the locations of 42. The Apollo 17 moon rock situation is not much better with space lovers having pinned down the whereabouts of 61 of the precious rocks."

According to CollectSPACE, after Arkansas' discovery, "nine out of the 50 states are still searching for their Apollo 17 goodwill moon rock displays."

Houston, we have a problem keeping track of them.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.