NASA orders to stop selling lunar dust from 1969 Apollo 11 mission

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has asked the Boston-based RR Auction to stop selling lunar dust collected during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which was subsequently fed to cockroaches during an experiment. determine if the moon rock is any kind of pathogen that posed a threat to terrestrial life.

The material, a NASA lawyer said in a letter to the auctioneer, still belongs to the federal government.

“The materials of the experiment, including a vial containing about 40 milligrams of moon dust and three cockroach carcasses, were expected to sell for at least $ 400,000 (almost Rs. 3 crore), but were pulled from the auction block,” RR said. on Thursday.

“All Apollo samples, as set forth in this collection of items, belong to NASA and no person, university or other entity has ever obtained permission to keep them after analysis, destruction or other use for any purpose, especially for sale or individual display. , ”Said NASA’s letter dated June 15.

It continued: “We request that you no longer facilitate the sale of any and all items containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment (the cockroaches, chips and post-destructive test specimens) by stopping the bidding process immediately,” NASA said. writing. .

In another letter dated June 22, NASA’s attorney asked RR Auction to work with the current owner of the material to return it to the federal government.

The Apollo 11 mission returned more than 47 pounds (21.3 kilograms) of lunar rock to Earth. Some were fed on insects, fish and other small creatures to see if it would kill them.

The moon-fed cockroaches 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 a story from October 1969. She found no evidence that the moon material was toxic or any other adverse effects in it. the insects did not cause, according to the article.

But the moon rock and the cockroaches were never returned to NASA, rather displayed at Brooks’ home. Her daughter sold them in 2010, and now they are on sale again through a sender that RR did not disclose.

It’s not uncommon for a third party to claim something being auctioned off, said Mark Zaid, an attorney at RR Auction.

“NASA has a record of chasing items related to the early space programs,” although they were reluctant to do so, Zaid said. From his own admission, NASA admitted in one of its letters that it did not know about the previous auction of the cockroach experiment items.

“We’ve worked with NASA before and have always worked with the U.S. government when they claim items,” Zaid said. “At the end of the day, we want to act appropriately and legally.”

RR Auction is holding on to fate for now, but ultimately it is up to the sender to work something out with NASA, he said.

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