Rare NASA lunar dust collected by Neil Armstrong during Apollo 11 mission to be auctioned
Most people want to get rid of dirt, but this particular sample of lunar dust is out of this world.
Lunar dust particles collected by Neil Armstrong in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission will be auctioned off this month.
Bonhams, the auction company responsible for the sale, estimated the specimen to be worth between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
It’s the only known sample of lunar dust from Apollo 11 that can be legally sold, making it difficult for the auction house to estimate its value, according to Bonhams expert Adam Stackhouse.
To determine the price range, Stackhouse looked at several other samples of lunar dust that have been sold as well as the significance of the historic event it originated from.
“I think this estimate gives it a sense of importance, but it’s really hard to say where it will sell,” he said.
According to Stackhouse, the auction took place in mid-April, but people have already expressed interest.
This special Apollo 11 relic has forged some blood ties between its owner and NASA.
Armstrong brought the bag of lunar dust back to Earth, but NASA lost the bag after lent it to a museum. It became part of the forfeiture when the director of the space museum was found guilty of fraud and theft.
It was eventually auctioned by the US Marshalls Service to Illinois resident Nancy Lee Carlson in 2015 for $995.
Stackhouse said she sent the bag to NASA for help determining where it came from. When NASA realized the importance of the bag, the space agency refused to return it to Carlson, he said.
Carlson sued NASA and won, forcing agency officials to return the bag.
Sotheby’s auction house sold the bag separately for $1.8 million in 2017.
Carlson is currently looking to sell five pieces of metal covered with lunar dust still in a container from NASA, Stackhouse said.
The auction company independently tested the material to confirm that it did indeed come from the moon, Stackhouse said.
Bonhams is selling the piece of space history on behalf of Carlson, but she did not share with Stackhouse why she was interested in putting it up for auction.
Officials at NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
OTHER ITEMS UP FOR SALE
If you don’t have $1 million, the auction house will sell other space memorabilia – though still expensive.
One item is a fragment of Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite the Soviet Union launched into Earth orbit in 1957. It is valued at between $80,000 and $120,000.
Bonhams will also sell maps of the moon signed by the 15 Apollo astronauts, including Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. It is valued between $20,000 and $30,000.
If you’re interested in attending the auction, it will be held April 13 at the Bonhams New York gallery.