At Auction: Moon Dust Collected by Neil Armstrong

It'll be quite a payday for Illinois collector Nancy Lee Carlson
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2022 7:55 AM CDT
At Auction: Moon Dust Collected by Neil Armstrong
Five samples of lunar dust, now up for auction.   (Bonhams)

A rare piece—or rather pieces—of space history are about to go to the highest bidder. Five samples of moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission will be sold at a Bonhams auction on Wednesday. Thought to be worth $1.2 million, "the first lunar sample collected by humanity," according to the auction house, is also the only known lunar dust sample to be legally sold after being authenticated by NASA, NBC News reports. "It was a real journey from the moment it was collected in 1969 until it arrived on our premises," says Bonhams specialist Adam Stackhouse.

The bag used to collect the dust was at one time loaned to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center before the private museum's director, Max Ary, was found guilty of stealing and selling artifacts in 2005. Seized by the US Marshals Service, the bag and several other space-related items were sold at a 2015 auction to Nancy Lee Carlson, a lawyer from Illinois, for a measly $995. The sale, it turned out, was a mistake. When Carlson sent the bag to NASA to be authenticated, the space agency claimed ownership and refused to return it. But a federal judge eventually granted ownership to Carlson, who sold the bag for $1.8 million in 2017. She's now selling the moon dust removed during NASA's testing.

According to the Houston Chronicle, NASA initially kept the moon dust after returning the bag to Carlson, prompting another lawsuit and later a settlement. The dust particles come on five aluminum disks, "each topped with a small piece of carbon tape" that was used to retrieve the dust from the bag, and held in a plastic container, per NBC. The item will be auctioned alongside a fragment of the recovered rocket that launched the Soviet Union's Sputnik-1, which became the first artificial satellite in Earth's orbit in 1957, and a mockup of the first American satellite to orbit Earth. Those items are valued at $80,000 to $120,000 and $40,000 to $60,000, respectively, per NBC. (More auction stories.)

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