A bag that was used by astronauts on the Apollo 11 moon mission is expected to bring millions at auction.
When Neil Armstrong returned from the moon, he brought with him a bag containing samples of lunar rocks and dust. However, that bag was misplaced and eventually ended up in a private collection before being auctioned off for a little under $1,000. The man behind the original auction, Max Ary, was eventually arrested and subjected to heavy fines.
The bag was eventually bought by Nancy Carlson at an auction held by the U.S. Marshals Service. However, once Carlson had verified that the bag was, in fact, used by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, NASA sought to have the sale reversed and the bag returned to the agency.
NASA argued that it had never authorized the transfer of the bag, but Carlson disagreed and after a lengthy legal battle, the courts ruled in ruled her favor. However, the courts did note that NASA did nothing wrong and was the victim in this case.
The bag will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s where it is expected to go for as high as $4 million.
“Still containing traces of the moon dust, the artifact gives a collector the chance to not only own some of the first lunar material ever collected,” Sotheby’s said, “but also the chance to own an exceptionally rare relic of humanity’s greatest achievement – landing a man on the moon.”
For her part, Carlson has said that she intends to donate some of the proceeds to charitable organizations.
The auction will be held on July 2 in New York City. The moon rock bag will be put on display prior to the auction.
Understandably, NASA is not supportive of this auction. The Apollo 11 program represented the United States’ greatest achievement in the space race and NASA representatives have said that they believe the bag should be in a museum rather than a private collection.
“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,” said a NASA spokesperson.
Despite NASA’s statement, Carlson’s reluctance to return the bag is understandable given its value and the fact that she did the work to verify it. That being said, it is a piece of American history so it would be nice if a compromise could be reached.