Neil Armstrong’s Moon Samples From The Apollo 11 Mission To Be Auctioned
While whisky, wine, watches and wheels are regulars at some of the world’s most illustrious auctions, would-be bidders very rarely have the chance to own something that is literally out of this world. Hitting the auction block at Bonhams New York in just under a week will be a unique piece of space history, surpassing just about every other possible flex one could get our hands on with the whole first moon samples collected by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
Four of the samples up for auction were collected by Armstrong when he became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. The lot auctioned on April 13 contains five aluminum sample stubs, each topped with 10 mm of carbon ribbon containing real moon dust from the Apollo 11 mission.
Each of the moon particles was originally stored as dustballs and rock fragments in emergency sample bags, which were deemed “lost by NASA” in 2005 after being stolen by a man named Max Ary. The thief, who was previously curator of the Cosmosphere Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, allegedly stole the samples from the Apollo 11 mission archives and attempted to sell them, but was caught and convicted before he could unload the precious cargo.
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The stolen goods were confiscated and sold for damages at a US Marshal’s auction in 2017, but the anonymous buyer sent the samples to NASA to test for authenticity. Obviously, these were confirmed to be the exact samples that Ary had stolen years before.
Somewhere along the line, NASA opened the bags and placed the samples on the hand-numbered stubs they currently sit on.
Neil Armstrong’s moon samples are expected to fetch a hammer price between US$800,000 (~A$1m) to US$1.2m (~A$1.6m), which, when come to think of it, is a pretty conservative estimate for something so indelible in human history. like real coins picked up by the first man to walk on the moon. Collectors regularly eat these types of singular expressions of wealth at much higher prices, so it’s not hard to assume that the aforementioned estimate is far from the truth.
Testing this year by lunar expert and geologist Professor Stephen J. Mojzsis confirmed that all of the moon samples in question were defined by many unique details. Although only four of the five auctioned samples have been confirmed, by Mojzsis at least, to match the exact composition and textures of particles from the Apollo 11 mission.
Does that make the fifth sample a fake, though? Not enough. As Mojzisin said in a statement released to the media:
“This suggests that the protocol for the sample was different in focus and technique from the other samples.”
Bonhams offers anyone who requests it the full report to confirm the authenticity of these moon samples.