Art/Design

Moon dust sold for over $500,000 USD

Collected by the Apollo 11 mission.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
May 3, 2022

The Moon, Earth’s sole natural satellite, appears to hold a special place in our hearts at the moment, inspiring everything from Richard Linklater’s new Netflix series to Jeff Koons’ debut NFT project, which features sculptures slated to land on the moon in July—potentially beating the space bound artworks of Sacha Jafri, which were meant to be the first artworks on the moon.

 

 

Now, you must be thinking: How can you profit from the Moon craze? Well, a small piece of the space rock was recently sold at auction, showing that it’s definitely profitable. A sample of moon dust gathered by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission was auctioned in New York last month, branded “the only Apollo sample that may be legally sold.”

 

The first lunar sample collected by humanity was expected to sell between $800,000 and $1,200,000 at Bonhams’ Space History auction, which took place on April 13. The dust itself originates from a decontamination bag that the pioneering astronauts brought back to Earth, and it has its own tumultuous past.

 

NASA misplaced the bag of lunar samples after the Apollo crew returned to Earth in 1969, and it remained missing for many years. However, in 2002, it was discovered in the ownership of Max Ary, the director of the Cosmosphere space museum in Kansas at the time. Ary had a tendency of auctioning off relics that NASA had lent the museum, and this was discovered in 2005. The US Marshals Service seized the space dust along with hundreds of other space objects that were auctioned off in an internet auction.

 

Nancy Lee Carlson, a geology enthusiast, paid $995 for a joint lot after suspecting that the moon dust was worth far more than it was offered for, and sent the sample to NASA for verification in 2015. The space agency then determined it belonged to the government and intended to keep it, but Carlson was able to get the space dust back in two pieces after many lawsuits. The latter is the sample that was auctioned in April at Bonhams.

 

The auction brought Carlson’s long-running ownership issue to a close. The winning bid was for $504,375 USD, not nearly as much as predicted. What exactly will the individual who spent over $500,000 do with the space dust? We can speculate and conjure up so many different uses for the space dust, but we’ll never know for sure.

 

In other related news, NASA is turning Space Station into private travel destination.

 

Photo via Bonhams