As great historical collectors items go, dust from the actual Moon, picked from the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong himself, has to be up there with the best of them. On 20 July 2017, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Sotheby’s New York will be auctioning the bag used by Neil Armstrong to bring back to Earth the very first sample of lunar material ever collected! During Sotheby’s Space Exploration sale the item will be up for grabs, for anyone with deep pockets that is, as it’s expected to make $2-4 million dollars.
A fair chunk of change, and certainly a bit different to what the current owner paid. In 2015 at a small auction on behalf of the US Marshall’s service the bag made just $995, but at the time the bag was mislabelled as from the 1972 Apollo 17 mission reported The Washington Post in August last year. Chicago lawyer Nancy Carlson was the purchaser. Interested in the history of her new bag, she sent it to NASA for tests. They revealed the dust in the bag was moon dust, specifically from the Apollo 11 landing site, and the part number printed inside of the bag matched up to that of the “Contingency Lunar Sample Return Decontamination Bag” listed in the Apollo 11 Stowage list. A bit different to what she thought she’d purchased. The bad news for her was NASA kept it … until that is, a high stakes court battle awarded the bag back to Nancy.
NASA aren’t best pleased about the situation …
“This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.”
Sotheby’s confirm the decontamination bag (as they didn’t know if the sample was harmful) still contains traces of the moon dust. We’d expect more than a trace for a minimum of $2 mill, especially seeing as Armstrong collected nearly 500 grams of the stuff from the moon’s Sea of Tranquility, but there you go. What happened to the rest of it? Were the astronauts snorting the stuff? The bag’s current owner Nancy plans to share a portion of the sale proceeds with a number of different charities. We’re sure they’ll be over the moon at that news!