NASA Loses Moon Rocks, Needs to Improve Collection Management

NASA Loses Moon Rocks, Needs to Improve Collection Management

NASA has lost hundreds of samples of astromaterials including Moon rocks and meteorite samples and needs to improve its management of such materials that are loaned to researchers and institutions according to NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

In a report released today, the OIG found that over 500 astromaterials loaned out between 1970 and June 2010 were lost or stolen, “including 18 lunar samples reported lost by a researcher in 2010 and 218 lunar and meteorite samples stolen from a researcher at Johnson Space Center, but since recovered.”

Considering that NASA is planning more missions to collect samples from solar system bodies, the OIG called for more reliable controls and accountability at Johnson Space Center’s Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office.  That office manages 140,000 lunar samples, 18,000 meteorite samples, and approximately 5,000 solar wind, comet and cosmic dust samples according to the report.  NASA had about 26,000 of those samples on loan as of March 2011, but the OIG concluded that NASA’s “records were inaccurate, researchers could not account for all samples loaned to them, and researchers held samples for extended periods without performing research or returning the samples to NASA.”

The OIG recommended a number of procedures to be implemented to improve control of the materials.   In a December 7 memo published as an appendix to the report, Charles Gay, Acting Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate, concurred with all the recommendations. 


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