The astronauts of NASA's Apollo missions collected some 840 lb. of lunar rocks and debris during the 340 hours they spent tooling around on the moon. Since they were brought to Earth, however, the samples have ended up in some unusual places. During the Nixon Administration, nearly 270 moon rocks were presented as gifts to foreign nations. But when a fake turned up in the Netherlands' national museum in September, the Associated Press launched an independent investigation to track the whereabouts of the rest only to find that many had disappeared. "NASA turned over the samples to the State Department to distribute," one NASA historian told the AP. "We don't have any records about when and to whom the rocks were given."
Apollo astronauts were allowed to keep a few rocks as lunar souvenirs, under the condition that they would never be sold but instead passed down from generation to generation. Today, NASA's remaining samples are kept in Teflon bags and stored in nitrogen-filled steel cabinets at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Any researcher who wishes to handle them must wear three pairs of gloves to prevent contamination.