Moon dust’s as­tro­nom­i­cal price

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NEW YORK — A bag used by US as­tro­naut Neil Arm­strong to bring the first sam­ples of moon dust back to Earth was sold to an anony­mous bid­der for $1.8 mil­lion at an auc­tion in New York on Thurs­day, mark­ing the 48th an­niver­sary of the first moon land­ing.

The bag, which for years sat uniden­ti­fied in a box at the John­son Space Cen­ter in Hous­ton, was bought by a per­son who bid by tele­phone and did not wish to be named pub­licly, auc­tion­eer Sotheby’s said.

Auc­tion­eers had ex­pected the bag to fetch be­tween $2 mil­lion and $4 mil­lion.

It was the high­est-value item at an auc­tion of moon mem­o­ra­bilia that in­cluded the Apollo 13 flight plan an­no­tated by its crew, which sold for $275,000, a space­suit worn by US as­tro­naut Gus Gris­som, which sold for $43,750, and a fa­mous im­age of Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 on the moon taken by Neil Arm­strong, which went for $35,000.

When Arm­strong and his Apollo 11 crew came home in July of 1969, the fate of the 30-by-22-cen­time­ter bag, la­beled “Lu­nar Sam­ple Re­turn”, was un­known for decades. Af­ter dis­ap­pear­ing from the John­son cen­ter, it 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 US Mar­shals Ser­vice which put it up for on­line govern­ment 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 US 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.

One group crit­i­cized the de­ci­sion to sell a piece of space his­tory.

“The bag be­longs in a mu­seum, so the en­tire world can share in and cel­e­brate the univer­sal hu­man achieve­ment it rep­re­sents,” said Michelle Han­lon co-founder of For All Moonkind, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion formed to per­suade the United Na­tions to adopt mea­sures to pre­serve the six Apollo lu­nar-land­ing sites.

price paid at a New York auc­tion for the first sam­ples of moon dust brought back to Earth in 1969

RICHARD DREW / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A bag con­tain­ing moon dust brought back to earth by Neil Arm­strong, was sold at an auc­tion in New York.

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