In February 2015, Nancy Carlson — a lawyer from Chicago — bought a bag which was marked “Lunar Sample Return” at a Texas auction for $995. Little did she know that the same bag was of historical significance. It was in this bag that Neil Armstrong placed rocks from the moon’s surface during the Apollo 11 landing.
This bag will now go up for auction once again and is expected to fetch upward of $4 million.
The Moon Dust Bag Auction
The auction for the lunar dust bag is scheduled to be held by Sotheby’s on July 20, which is the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. Bids will be taken through phone, online, and in person.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. This transcends space exploration. It’s a relic of one of the most historic achievements of humanity,” Cassandra Hatton, Vice President of Sotheby’s, said.
The moon dust bag auction was also announced through the firm’s official Twitter handle.
— Sotheby’s (@Sothebys) 21 May 2017
Carlson revealed that a part of the proceeds will go toward charities, in the form of donations. The charities which will benefit from the auction include Immune Deficiency Foundation and Bay Cliff Health Camp. The owner of the lunar dust bag also plans to start a scholarship for speech pathology at the Northern Michigan University.
The History Of The Lunar Dust Bag
Carlson discovered grains of dust and rocks inside the bag after she bought it at the auction in 2015. She decided to send it over to NASA for testing. The space agency’s tests revealed that the bag indeed contained dust and sediments from the moon’s surface.
NASA said that the sample was mistakenly sold off and confiscated it claiming it was federal property. This led Carlson to file a federal complaint demanding the lunar dust bag back and a legal battle ensued between the two parties. However, In December 2016, a U.S. District Court decided that the lunar dust bag rightfully belonged to Carlson and not NASA.
It is believed that after the astronauts returned from the Apollo 11 mission and stored the material inside the vaults in the Johnson Space Center, some lunar elements were given to foreign nations and dignitaries as gifts.
This particular lunar dust bag landed up in the possession of Max Ary, who ran the Kansas Cosmosphere Museum. He was later accused and convicted of stealing and selling space items. Government officials sold off some of his items for restitution and among them was the bag containing the lunar dust.
After the court’s decision to grant ownership of the bag and its contents to Carlson, NASA officials expressed their regret over the decision.
NASA spokesperson Warren Jeffs shared that the lunar dust bag “represents the culmination of a massive national effort involving a generation of Americans, including the astronauts who risked their lives in an effort to accomplish the most significant act humankind has ever achieved.”