Moon dust heading to auction after galactic court battle

July 20, 2017

A bag containing traces of moon dust is heading to auction—surrounded by some fallout from a galactic court battle.

The collection bag, used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the moon in 1969, will be featured Thursday at a Sotheby's in New York City of items related to space voyages. The pre-sale estimate is $2 million to $4 million.

The artifact from the Apollo 11 mission was misidentified and sold at an online government auction. NASA fought to get it back.

In December, a federal judge ruled that it legally belonged to a Chicago-area woman who bought it in 2015 for $995.

Sotheby's declined to identify the seller. However, details of the 2015 purchase were made public during the court case.

Investigators unknowingly hit the moon mother lode in 2003 while searching the garage of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artifacts, including some that were on loan from NASA.

The 12-by-8½-inch (30-by-20-centimeter) bag was misidentified and sold at an online government auction.

Nancy Carlson, of Inverness, Illinois, got an ordinary-looking bag made of white Beta cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and a brass zipper.

Carlson, a collector, knew the bag had been used in a space flight, but she didn't know which one. She sent it to NASA for testing, and the government agency, discovering its importance, fought to keep it.

The artifact "belongs to the American people," NASA said then.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita, Kansas said that while it shouldn't have gone up for auction, he didn't have the authority to reverse the sale. He ordered the government to return it.

The judge said the importance and desirability of the bag stemmed solely from the efforts of NASA employees whose "amazing technical achievements, skill and courage in landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely have not been replicated in the almost half a century since the Apollo 11 landing."

When it comes to moon landings, Thursday's auction is far from the final frontier.

A group called For All Moonkind, Inc. mentioned the bag this week while campaigning for "measures to preserve and protect the six Apollo lunar landing sites."

It plans to take up the issue next month at the Starship Congress 2017 in California.

Explore further: Judge: Mistakenly sold Apollo 11 moon mission bag is buyer's

Related Stories

Apollo 11 bag used for lunar samples focus of legal dispute

August 5, 2016

A bag carried to the moon aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft and used for the first sample of lunar material is at the center a legal fight after the government mistakenly sold it during the criminal case against the former ...

Recommended for you

Hunting molecules to find new planets

June 19, 2018

It's impossible to obtain direct images of exoplanets as they are masked by the high luminous intensity of their stars. However, astronomers led by UNIGE propose detecting molecules present in the exoplanet's atmosphere in ...

Exploring planetary plasma environments from your laptop

June 15, 2018

A new database of plasma simulations, combined with observational data and powerful visualisation tools, is providing planetary scientists with an unprecedented way to explore some of the Solar System's most interesting plasma ...

NASA encounters the perfect storm for science

June 14, 2018

One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.