Neil Armstrong moon bag sells for $1.8mn in New York

July 20, 2017
The Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag, used by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 to bring back the very first pieces of the moon ever collected, is displayed during a media preview for Space Exploration auction in New York

A bag Neil Armstrong used to collect the first ever samples of the moon—which was once nearly thrown out with the trash—sold at auction Thursday for $1.8 million, Sotheby's said.

The outer decontamination bag, which was flown to the on Apollo 11 and still carries traces of and small rock, was sold on the 48th anniversary of the first in 1969.

Auctioneer Joe Dunning introduced the lot as "an exceptionally rare artifact from mankind's greatest achievement." It sold to an anonymous buyer on the telephone following a sluggish five-minute bidding war.

Its previous owner was an Illinois lawyer, who bought it in 2015 for $995.

But even with the buyer's premium added to Thursday's $1.5-million hammer price, the bag fell short of Sotheby's pre-sale estimate of $2-4 million.

Sotheby's said it was the only artifact from the Apollo 11 mission left in private hands. After Apollo 11 returned to Earth, nearly all the equipment from the mission was sent to the Smithsonian, the world's largest museum.

But an inventory error left the sample bag languishing in a box at the Johnson Space Center.

Staff were about to throw it out before offering it to a collector who ran a space museum in Kansas, keeping it unaware of its provenance.

When the collector was later convicted of theft, fraud and money laundering, the FBI seized the box from his garage to auction it off for restitution.

The bag—which has a tear and is made of the same fire-retardant material as space suits—was offered four times for sale, before the Illinois lawyer bought it in 2015.

Noticing dark smudges inside, she sent it to NASA for testing, which confirmed in 2016 it was indeed moon dust from the Apollo 11 landing site, and that it was the decontamination bag listed in the Apollo 11 stowage list.

A legal battle ensued over ownership, which ended in a federal judge ordering NASA to return the bag to the lawyer—who then offered it for sale.

Explore further: Moon dust heading to auction after galactic court battle

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

Two sub-Jovian exoplanets orbiting bright stars discovered

March 19, 2018

Using NASA's prolonged Kepler mission, known as K2, astronomers have identified two new gas giant exoplanets. The newly found alien worlds, designated HD 89345 b and HD 286123 b, are warm, low-density sub-Jovian planets circling ...

Measuring white dwarf masses with gravitational lensing

March 19, 2018

Measuring the mass of a celestial body is one of the most challenging tasks in observational astronomy. The most successful method uses binary systems because the orbital parameters of the system depend on the two masses. ...

NASA powers on new instrument staring at the Sun

March 16, 2018

NASA has powered on its latest space payload to continue long-term measurements of the Sun's incoming energy. Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), installed on the International Space Station, became fully ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2017
You know what would be really fun? Take that image of the "Lunar Sample Return" bag, then manufacture thousands of them to sell on eBay for about ten bucks. Then the idiot that paid $1.8 million dollars for that silly crap could fume all day how he paid a fortune for a bag he could get on eBay for ten bucks.
1 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2017
The only problem in this little story is that Apollo 11 never touched the moon. Once that will be proven the article's price might drop a bit.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2017
The only problem in this little story is that Apollo 11 never touched the moon. Once that will be proven the article's price might drop a bit.

Get. Lost.

If you want to go conspiracy-tinfoil-hat-mode then go somewhere else. This is a science site.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jul 22, 2017

thrift shop "bag"

I got my basic back pack for $2.

Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jul 22, 2017
I was in the studio when the faked landings were filmed.


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.