Former NASA investigator's class to explore moon rock tracking

Posted on: May 24, 2013

While treasure seekers abound, treasure restorers are rare.
Joe Gutheinz, an attorney and retired NASA criminal investigator, has helped track several missing treasures—moon rocks that the U.S. government gave during the days of the Apollo missions to nations across the globe as a gesture of goodwill.  Over time, changes in government, natural disasters and theft have caused many to vanish. In 1998, Gutheinz went undercover in Operation Lunar Eclipse, a sting operation that tracked down a moon rock the size of a small pebble given to Honduras, and his investigation restored it to the nation’s government.
In Moon Rock Investigation, a new class at College of the Mainland, he will reveal the secrets learned in his career tracking moon rocks across the globe and will show students how to launch their own investigations.
“170 moon rocks are still missing,” said Gutheinz. “I’ll assign one to each student and hopefully we’ll have some success and be able to report back, ‘Hey, I found one.’”
Called “The Moon Rock Hunter” by the New York Times, Gutheinz is an instructor at University of Phoenix and has taught graduate students investigative techniques for years, and his students have helped track down 79 moon rocks. One student, along with Gutheinz, is named on the plaque in the West Virginia State Museum next to West Virginia’s Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock, which that student helped recover. His Moon Rock Project has been the topic of three documentaries and one novel, “The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks” by Joe Kloc. However, this is the first time the project has been offered as a stand-alone class.
The 16-hour class will be held Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m., July 10 to Aug. 28. The class is open to teens and adults. For more information, call the COM Learning Center-North County at 281-332-1800 or visit

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