An Apollo 11 lunar sample is set to go up for auction

Shortly after becoming the first man to walk on the moon’s surface in July 1969, Neil Armstrong collected a few scoops of dust and some rocks from the lunar region known as the Sea of Tranquility and placed them in a decontamination bag he stashed in the pocket of his spacesuit.

As the result of a complex chain of events that few could have predicted, the New York auction house Sotheby’s will offer that very same square, zippered pouch, smeared with lunar dust, as part of its Space Exploration sale on July 20, the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. According to Sotheby’s, the bag is expected to fetch between $2-4 million. 

About two years ago, the Chicago-area attorney Nancy Lee Carlson was perusing an online auction site when she saw a listing for a bag containing “lunar dust” as part of an auction on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.

No one had bid on the item in three previous auctions, and Carlson easily won the lot (which also included several other items) with a bid of $995.

When NASA tested the pouch, they found it definitely contained lunar dust, a fine grey powder resembling graphite. 

In fact, it contained some of the very first moon dust ever collected, by the Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong back in July 1969.