NASA wants its moon dust and cockroaches back.
The space agency has asked Boston-based RR Auctions to stop selling moon dust collected during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which was later fed to cockroaches during an experiment to determine whether the lunar There is some kind of pathogen in the rock that poses a threat. terrestrial life.
The material, a NASA attorney said in a letter to the auctioneer, still belongs to the federal government.
RR said Thursday that the contents of the experiment, which included a vial with about 40 milligrams of moon dust and three cockroach carcasses, were expected to sell for at least $400,000, but have been pulled from the auction block.
“All Apollo samples, as set out in this collection of items, belong to NASA and to any person, university or other entity for analysis, destruction, or for any purpose exclusively after sale or other use to the individual.” They have not been allowed to hold demonstrations,” the June 15 letter from NASA said.
It continued: “We are requesting that you no longer facilitate the sale of any and all items containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment (cockroaches, slides, and destructive test specimen) by immediately halting the bidding process,” said NASA. wrote.
In another letter dated June 22, NASA attorneys asked RR Auctions to work with the material’s current owner to return it to the federal government.
The Apollo 11 mission brought more than 47 pounds (21.3 kg) of lunar rock back to Earth. Some were fed insects, fish, and other small creatures to see if it would kill them.
Cockroaches fed on moon dust were brought to the University of Minnesota where entomologist Marion Brooks dissected and studied them.
“I found no evidence of infectious agents,” Brooks, who died in 2007, told the Minneapolis Tribune for an October 1969 story. According to the article, she found no evidence that the material in the moonshine was toxic or caused any other side effects in insects.
But the moon rock and the cockroaches were never returned to NASA, but instead were on display at Brooks’ home. His daughter sold them in 2010, and they are now up for resale by a consignor, which RR did not disclose.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer at RR Auctions, said it is not unusual for a third party to claim something that is being auctioned.
“NASA has a track record of pursuing objects related to early space programs,” Zaid said, “though they have been inconsistent in doing so.” By its own admission, NASA admitted in one of its letters that it was not aware of previous auctions of cockroach experiment items.
“We’ve worked with NASA before and have always cooperated with the US government whenever they claim items,” Zaid said. “At the end of the day, we want to act fairly and legally.”
RR auctions are a lot for now, but ultimately, it’s up to the consignor to do some work with NASA, he said.
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