CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A rock fragment scooped from the surface of the moon during NASA's final lunar landing in March 1973 -- and missing since it was presented to the state of West Virginia a few months later -- is believed to have resurfaced in Morgantown.
For years, the rock has been perched on a shelf in the home of retired Morgantown dentist Robert Conner, who only learned Friday that the mineral specimen was being sought.
"I don't really know how long it's been lying around here," said Conner. "It was among items that were unpacked from boxes that had been in storage from my brother's law offices."
Conner's brother, Troy Blaine Conner Jr., a Moundsville native, WVU law school graduate and former attorney for the Atomic Energy Commission, died in 2002.
While the Morgantown man wasn't sure how his brother came to be in possession of the rock, he did say that former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. and Troy Conner were law partners for several years in Washington, D.C.
Moore, who was governor when the moon rock was presented to the state, told The Associated Press on Friday that it was his intent for the moon rock fragment to end up in the West Virginia University library, but he might have given it to Troy Conner "to observe."
The tiny mineral specimen was among 110 pounds of lunar rocks gathered in the Taurus-Littrow Valley by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt during NASA's last manned voyage to the moon.
While most of the rocks were used for scientific research, small fragments of some of them were encased in acrylic shells and mounted with small plaques, and then sent as goodwill gestures to all U.S. states and territories and 135 foreign countries. Accompanying the tiny Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rocks were tiny flags, representing each state and country, which had flown to the moon and back with the astronauts.