Souvenirs from humankind’s missions to the Moon are extremely rare; NASA usually holds on to moon rocks or moon dust instead of allowing private owners to keep them. But they couldn’t hold on to one bag of moon dust. The artifact – supposedly collected by astronaut Neil Armstrong – is the property of a Chicago lawyer, and now she plans to auction it off.
After Armstrong took that historic leap for mankind on the Apollo 11 mission, he did what many of us would do – grabbed a space souvenir in the form of a handful of moon rocks placed in a bag, which he put into a second bag. That second outer bag then embarked on a journey of its own. When the bag was accidentally put up for auction, lawyer Nancy Lee Carlson obtained the bag in February 2015 for $995 on a federal auction website.
Carlson kept the bag for a while and then decided to send it to NASA to see if it was really authentic. NASA said the bag did indeed have traces of the moon’s dark gray powder. But then the agency tried to confiscate the bag as the property of the government. Carlson fought the move and this year in February a judge decided she’d acquired the bag legally and could keep it.
NASA put out a statement after the ruling: “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.” Before going up for auction the bag belonged to Max Ary of the Kansas Cosmosphere museum; he was convicted of stealing such interstellar objects and putting them up for sale, and when several of his possessions were seized by the government, the moon bag was among them but was mixed up with another bag lacking the treasured dust.
Now Carlson plans to auction the bag off once again on July 20, send some money to charity, and set up a scholarship at her alma mater, Northern Michigan University. Auctioneers think the bag could be sold for between two to four million dollars. Sotheby’s auction house curators think the bag of moon dust could be the only privately held object of this nature on Earth.
Via the Chicago Tribune