Moon Dust Collected By Neil Armstrong Sells for $504,375 at Auction

The sample is authenticated by NASA as real lunar dust from Apollo 11, the first space mission that put men on the moon.

Full moon in dark cloudy sky
Photo: Getty Images

Most of us won't make it to the moon in our lifetime, but what if you were able to purchase material from its surface? That's the reality for one lucky person who now owns a minuscule sample of lunar dust collected by Neil Armstrong during Apollo 11, the first mission that brought men to the moon. The dust sold for $504,375 at an auction hosted by Bonhams on Wednesday, which was far below anticipated earnings of between $800,000 to 1.2 million.

The moon dust samples, which are so small that Bonhams couldn't provide a total weight, arrived on Earth in 1969 when they were found in the seems of a bag used to hold the first lunar sample collected on the moon. The lunar material was gathered as a contingency sample in case the mission needed to be cut short for some reason. When Armstrong returned home from the Apollo 11 mission, he had the moon dust with him in a bag that was loaned to a space museum in Kansas, NBC News reports.

The moon dust's visit in Kansas was cut short when it was seized by the United States Marshals Service after the museum's director was convicted of selling stolen artifacts. In 2015, the bag was sold at auction and purchased for $995 by Nancy Lee Carlson. Soon after her purchase, Carlson sent the bag to NASA to be authenticated, which the space agency refused to return when they realized that the dust was from Apollo 11. Carlson sued NASA for wrongful seizure of property and won in 2016. When the sample was returned to her, she sold the bag in 2017 at a Sotheby's auction in New York for $1.8 million.

Eventually the tiny particles were sold at Bonhams' Space History Sale for a winning bid of $400,000, with the final price including fees and the buyer's premium. It was sold alongside other space treasures, including artifacts from the launch of Sputnik, as well as autographs and photographs from astronauts. The sale officially puts an end to the sample's complicated history since its arrival on Earth.

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