Moon dust collected by U.S. austronaut Neil Armstrong during the first lunar landing was displayed Thursday at Sotheby's auction house in New York. The lunar dust and some tiny rocks the late astronaut collected are zipped up in a small long-lost bag and are expected to sell for up to $4 million.
The sale also features 180 lots linked to space travel, including Armstrong's snapshot of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin standing on the moon, a spacesuit worn by U.S. astronaut Gus Grissom and the Apollo 13 flight plan. The auction will be held on July 20, marking the 48th anniversary of the first lunar landing.
The fate of the bag, which measures 12 inches by 8.5 inches and is labelled "Lunar Sample Return" was unknown for decades after Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew came home in July 1969. It ultimately surfaced in the garage of the manager of a Kansas museum, Max Ary, who was convicted of its theft in 2014, according to court records. The bag was seized by the U.S. Marshals Service which put it up for auction three times, drawing no bids, until it was bought in 2015 for $995 by a Chicago-area attorney, Nancy Lee Carlson.
She sent the bag to NASA for authentication, and when tests revealed it was used by Armstrong and still had moon dust traces inside, the U.S. space agency decided to keep it. Carlson successfully sued NASA to get the bag back, and the attention created by her legal challenge prompted many inquiries from potential buyers, according to Sotheby's. That led Carlson to decide to auction it again.
About Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, USA. In September 1962 he became America's first nonmilitary astronaut. In January 1969 he was selected as commander for Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission. On July 20, 1969, at 10:56 pm EDT, he stepped down from the Lunar Excursion Module Eagle and became the first man to set foot on the moon, calling his first movements "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong died on Aug. 25, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. A crater on the moon is named Armstrong after him.