Moon Dust Collected By Neil Armstrong Hits the Auction Block

Faith Castro
July 15, 2017

She sent the bag to NASA for authentication, and when tests revealed it was used by Armstrong and still had moon dust traces inside, the USA space agency made a decision to keep it.

Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong during the first lunar landing was displayed Thursday, July 13 at a NY auction house, Time reports.

It's an exceptionally rare piece of history.

The lunar dust, along with some tiny rocks that Armstrong also collected, are zipped up in a small bag and are worth an estimated $2 million to $4 million (£1.5 million to £3 million).

For years it sat in a box, unidentified, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Hatton said.

Almost all of the equipment from the mission is housed in the U.S. national collections at the Smithsonian Museum but, according to Sotheby's, a recent court ruling has allowed this to be the only such artefact in private hands.

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It ultimately surfaced in the garage of the manager of a Kansas museum, Max Ary, who was convicted of its theft in 2014, according to court records.

When the collector was later convicted of theft, fraud and money laundering, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized the box from his garage to auction it off for restitution along with other assets.

The bag of moon dust is owned by Chicago-area lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson, after it was mistakenly sold on a government website for $995 (£769). Perhaps this explains how the auction house amassed 173 stellar lots on the theme (quite substantial, especially for a summer sale), including a color photograph of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, shot by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission. Curious about the origin of the product, she sent it to NASA where it was confirmed to be a "Contingency Lunar Sample Return Decontamination Bag" that was in the Apollo 11's stowage list.

Armstrong's snapshot of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin standing on the moon could go for up to $4,000 (£3,100). Numerous Apollo 13 artifacts are offered in Sotheby's sale, including the booklet of flight plans used by Haise's crew onboard (lot 140).

While there are legal restrictions on sales of material from moon missions, including lunar rocks and dust, it is believed some items have been sold on the black market.

Sotheby's is kicking off its Space Exploration auction on July 20, and this item will surely become the star of the event. Yuri Gagarin is the Russian astronaut who is actually the very first human to orbit the Earth in 1961.

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