NASA’s monopoly on the moon is finally coming to an end

NASA’s monopoly on the moon is finally coming to an end

A small sample of dust collected by Neil Armstrong will go up for auction next month.

A lunar dust sample collected by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission will be hammered into New York next month. As part of the Bonhams auction of rare space-history-related artifacts, the lunar sample is expected to fetch around $ 1 million. And thanks to an unusual series of events, this will be the first time that NASA-verified lunar dust has been sold legally.

Space agency certification may be appropriate for the Apollo artifact, but lunar dust is no ordinary artifact. NASA has long claimed to be the sole legal owner of lunar dust, and has been at loggerheads with people who have been able to obtain authentic samples from the Apollo program for decades. NASA often wins these battles. However, the lunar dust that went on sale at Bonhams has repeatedly escaped the hands of the government and now the space agency cannot get it back.

The historic auction also serves as a reminder that NASA is losing control not only of its own lunar dust, but also of the moon to some extent. While the agency is rushing to launch the Artemis program, a series of lunar missions aimed at launching from where Apollo was launched, with other countries planning their own lunar excavation efforts. Collecting more recent lunar samples may be important for scientific research, but the dust collected when humanity first set foot on the moon is not necessarily of historical significance.

“It represents something that really captivated the world,” said Adam Stackhouse, a Bonhams expert who oversees the upcoming space auction. “Is this another campaign?” It’s not the same. It’s not that exciting for people. ”

Since the Apollo mission brought back its first specimens, lunar dust has become a hot object. Between 1969 and 1972, NASA collected about 2,200 samples of rock, gravel, gravel, sand, and dust from the moon, most of which were studied by the agency. From incidents ranging from incidents to burglary, however, some private individuals have got their hands on NASA’s lunar dust and some have even tried to sell it. NASA has maintained that these people are illegally on the agency’s property and, over the past few years, the government has deployed extensive and sometimes bizarre sting operations to reclaim lunar samples. In 2011, an investigation led authorities to a den in Riverside, California, where they found a 74-year-old woman trying to sell a “speck” of lunar rock that Neil Armstrong had given to her husband in the 1970s.

But one pattern remains out of NASA’s hands: Lunar Dust is now on sale in Bonhams. The story of how the agency lost it begins when Armstrong first landed on the moon, collected some dust and stored the dust in an emergency bag. NASA never had a specific plan for the bag, and when Armstrong returned to Earth, it cost $ 15 and was sent to the Cosmos Space Space Museum in Kansas for safekeeping. The transfer would be mundane without the fact that the museum’s director, Max Erie, was auctioning off the artifacts lent to the cosmos by NASA. When Ari was finally captured and convicted in 2005, the U.S. Marshals’ Service seized hundreds of stolen space artifacts, including Armstrong’s space dust bag.

The U.S. Marshalls Service sold the saw’s collection at an online auction, and geologist Nancy Lee Carlson paid $ 995 for a bag, a headrest from the Apollo command module, and a launch key for a Soviet Soyuz T-shirt. 14 spacecraft. Carlson suspects the price of a lunar dust bag is too high. To confirm the authenticity of the artwork, Carlson sent the bag to NASA for testing in 2015. The space agency determined that the bag belonged not only to the government but also to the government. Carlson successfully sued NASA to get the bag back – a judge ruled she had bought it legally – and sold it in 2017 at Sotheby’s for 1.8 million. But the bag was cleared, leaving some traces of lunar dust in NASA’s hands.

During the test, NASA used small pieces of carbon tape to collect traces of lunar dust from the bag and then attached the tape to a series of small aluminum discs, which the agency decided to hold. Carlson later sued NASA, alleging that the agency not only damaged the bag but also injected some lunar dust. Eventually NASA settled in and returned almost all of the lunar dust to Carlson. Now she lists lunar dust-covered discs with Bonhams, which are estimated to sell for between $ 800,000 and $ 1.2 million.

Sneha Mali

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