Sotheby's in New York auctions the rock sample bag Neil Armstrong used during the first lunar landing on the anniversary of the 1969 feat. The cloth bag, which contains traces of dust from the Moon, is late coming to auction because of a protracted legal dispute with NASA about ownership.
Almost all the other relics from the mission are housed in the Smithsonian. This is the only remaining item from the lunar landing that is in private hands, according to the auction house. Sotheby's expects some US $2-4 million for what it describes as the "most important space artifact to ever appear at auction."
The dispute that delayed its arrival on the market started with an inventory error. Armstrong's collection pouch became lost in sample bags that were never used to hold lunar materials. At one point, the bag was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice during an investigation, and then mistakenly auctioned off to its current owner, Nancy Lee Carlson. She bought the bag for US $995 and sent it to NASA for analysis. The space agency seized it when the analysis revealed that it contained traces of lunar dust and its link to the Apollo 11 mission. Carlson went to court to win it back. She won her case. The bag was returned to her on Feb 27 and consigned to Sotheby's for sale.
The 2011 sale of a Soviet Vostok space capsule for US $2,882,500 holds the auction record for space memorabilia.
Date written/update: 2017-05-26