US astronaut Neil Armstrong when came back to Earth brought the first sample of moon dust which was sold to an anonymous bidder on Thursday for $1.8 million at an auction in New York marking the 48th anniversary of the first moon landing.
The bag, which for years sat unidentified in a box at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, was bought by a person who bid by telephone and did not wish to be named publicly, auctioneer Sotheby’s said. The auctioneers expected a bid of $2 or $4 million.
It was the highest-value item at an auction of moon memorabilia that included the Apollo 13 flight plan annotated by its crew, which sold for $275,000; a spacesuit worn by US astronaut Gus Grissom, which sold for $43,750, and a famous image of Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 on the moon taken by Neil Armstrong, which went for $35,000.
After Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew came come in July of 1969, the fate of the 12-inch by 8.5-inch (30-cm by 22-cm) bag labelled “Lunar Sample Return, was unknown for decades. After disappearing from the Johnson centre, it surfaced in the garage of the manager of a Kansas museum, Max Ary, who was convicted of its theft in 2014, according to court records.
The bag was seized by the US Marshals Service and they sent the bag to NASA for authentication and when the test results came it was revealed that the bag was used by Armstrong and still had moon dust inside.
“The bag belongs in a museum, so the entire world can share in and celebrate the universal human achievement it represents,” said Michelle Hanlon co-founder of For All Moonkind, a non-profit formed to persuade the United Nations to adopt measures to preserve and protect the six Apollo lunar landing sites.