How a Houston attorney combs the planet looking for rocks from outer space. A WELL-KNOWN AMERICAN ASTRONAUT ONCE TOLD JOSEPH GUTHEINZ THAT SIMPLY SEEING A MOON ROCK CHANGED HIS LIFE’S TRAJECTORY. He’d always thought he wanted to be a pilot, but his ambition changed the moment he saw the rock through the museum-case glass. That comment stuck with Gutheinz, a Houston criminal defense attorney, and the story goes a long way toward explaining why recovering lost moon rocks is one of his passions. As a NASA criminal investigator in 1998, Gutheinz led Operation Lunar Eclipse, a Hollywood-screenplayworthy sting operation that recovered an Apollo 17 moon rock from a man who tried to illegally sell it for $5 million. Since 2002, Gutheinz has shared his investigative techniques as a professor for the University of Phoenix, and he has helped students successfully recover 79 missing moon rocks. Starting this month, he will teach his Moon Rock Project as a stand-alone class for the first time at the College of the Mainland in Texas City. “When my students find these moon rocks and help return them to their rightful place or expose that they’re stuck in storage somewhere and long forgotten, it’s kind of a neat thing,” said Gutheinz, who is retired from NASA. “What I tell them is someday, one of these moon rocks that you helped put back on a display in a museum is going to inspire some six-year-old or 10-year-old to want to become an astronaut or scientist. So it really does matter.” Gutheinz’s own childhood was shaped by President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to put Americans on the moon—one of his earliest memories—and he watched with interest each time the country launched a space mission. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford gave away 386 Apollo-era moon rocks to United Nations member countries and U.S. states and territories as goodwill gestures. Roughly 170 of the rocks are missing today, thanks to government shake-ups, theft, or natural disasters. “What I learned in Operation Lunar Eclipse was that NASA did not have a clue where any of the moon rocks were that we gave away,” he said. “We gifted these pieces of lunar dust, in the case of Apollo 11, or moon rocks, in the case of Apollo 17, to the nations of the world—some dictators, some real bad guys—and then we didn’t follow through on it to see if they went to museums or were on display or what was happening to them.” Countless media outlets have profiled Gutheinz’s globespanning adventures, and several documentaries have featured his work. He’s also the subject of the 2012 book The Case of the Missing Moon Rocks, by Joe Kloc. “He most definitely is a unique character, and that is something that I look for in a film,” said Troy Hale, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker who plans to release a moon rocks film this fall featuring interviews with Gutheinz. “He is really dedicated to finding these missing moon rocks.” Elizabeth Riker, an auto industry engineer from a Detroit suburb, said she wasn’t interested in moon rocks until she took Gutheinz’s class. Her investigation recovered Alaska’s Apollo 11 moon rock. Another former student, Richard Griffis, investigated the missing Apollo 17 Colorado moon rock that was found in a former governor’s house. To Griffis, Gutheinz’s commitment to students was clear from the way he challenged them. “He would check on our progress and ask all of us if we needed any assistance, going beyond what I thought was the norm,” he said. Which raises the question: How does Gutheinz do it? Besides working more than 60 hours a week at his law practice, he also is involved with the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono College, serves on the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, and, in his telling, never misses taking his wife out on twice-weekly dates. “I try to do [the moon rock work] after hours,” he said. “Attorneys do other things all the time. A lot of attorneys teach, including at law schools. I teach, and this is kind of like my assignment, so I am able to manage it. “It doesn’t hurt that my two law partners are my sons,” he added with a laugh. “If everything goes to heck, I’ve got them to cover for me.” LOWELL BROWN, Photo by Troy Hale & Colin Marshall, Michigan State University Go the Distance How a San Antonio judge races across the state—and the country— to photograph some of the nation’s fastest runners. WHEN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE BERT RICHARDSON WANTS TO TAKE A GREAT ACTION SHOT, he lies facedown about midway through the curve of the track and photographs runners as they are coming right toward him. “I’m at a vantage point because they are looking straight at me,” Richardson said. The former competitive runner— Richardson ran track in high school in San Antonio but claims he wasn’t good enough to make the Brigham Young University team—has been shooting track events in Texas and around the nation for more than 20 years. “The only thing I haven’t covered is the Olympics,” he said. Richardson’s fascination with photography began when he was about 12 years old, living in Holland and working on his Boy Scout Merit Badge. His father was a fighter pilot, so he would take photographs of planes, tulips, and just about everything he saw with his Kodak Instamatic. After returning to the U.S., he worked on his high school yearbook, then offset his college expenses by shooting weddings. While at BYU he befriended a track coach and began traveling with the team, which is when he developed an interest in track photography. Law school proved too time-consuming for pictures, but after graduation, he began freelancing. Before long, Richardson’s side career took off. He now shoots for DyeStat and Texas Runner in addition to other sports publications. It isn’t unusual for Richardson to shoot more than 5,000 photos when he’s covering an event such as the Texas Relays, the UIL Texas State Championship, or even the Olympic Trials. “Digital is perfect for sports events,” Richardson said. “Cameras these days shoot anywhere from seven to 10 frames a second, so you can take an unlimited number of pictures. If you don’t like it, just push delete.” Because he has a massive library of photos, Richardson said it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite shot or event, although he enjoys high school meets most. In fact, one kid he started following in high school, Jeremy Wariner, went on to win the gold in the 2004 Olympics. “I have the emotions of winning,” Richardson said, referring to his images, “and Olympic medalists laying on the track with pulled hamstrings, screaming.” Richardson has been able to incorporate his photography into the courtroom. “I understand when lawyers try to introduce photographs as to whether there has been any manipulation,” he said. “It does come in handy.” PATRICIA BUSA MCCONNICO TEXAS PEOPLE M. Edwin Prud’homme Prudhomme Law Office, Houston and Las Vegas Received the Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services Award by the Federal President of the Republic of Austria for service to that country. Arturo Rodriguez Arturo Rodriguez Law Firm, P.C., El Paso Designated by Carolina Adoption Services Inc. as the Mexican legal representative for intercountry adoptions under the Hague Convention. Arthur Troilo III Troilo Law Firm, P.C., Austin Appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Department of Information Resources Board. The term will expire in February 2015. Mark L.D. Wawro Susman Godfrey, L.L.P., Houston Inducted into the Litigation Counsel of America. LCA fellows are based on accomplishment in litigation and superior ethical reputation.
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