January 20, 2018

NASA reeling after Neil Armstrong moon sample bag sold for $1.5m

23 July 2017, 08:17 | Anita Wise

The bag used to bring moon rocks home from Neil Armstrong's 1969 moon landing. CBS NEWS

The bag used to bring moon rocks home from Neil Armstrong's 1969 moon landing. CBS NEWS

It was the only artefact from the Apollo 11 mission that has been given in the private hands. The bag's previous owner is likely thrilled, but NASA certainly isn't celebrating.

Cassandra Hatton, vice president and senior specialist of Sotheby's books and manuscripts department in NY commented, "We are thrilled that the tremendous excitement around Sotheby's first space-themed sale in almost 20 years translated into a great result". Thursday's buyer was not identified, but the $1.8 million sale price is considered a bargain.

The bag was put up for an online auction at a suggested bid of $20,000, and sold to a woman named Nancy Carlson for just $995 after no one showed much interest, making her a cool profit margin of 1,500pc.

Around 600 million people watched as he and Armstrong walked on the moon 48 years ago this week. Out of curiosity, Carlson contacted NASA who subjected the bag to various tests and examinations. When Armstrong stepped down onto the moon's surface, he uttered the immortal words "that's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind".

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The bag should have been returned to NASA at that point; instead, Mr. Ary's crime was compounded by confusion. NASA was forced to return the artifact in February of 2017.

A legal battle ensued over ownership, which ended in a federal judge ordering NASA to return the bag to the lawyer - who then offered it for sale. It was originally expected to fetch between $2 million to $4 million.

An explosion on board Apollo 13 forced the spacecraft to circle the moon in 1970 without landing. After disappearing from the Johnson center, 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. During his brief stay there, Armstrong collected several samples and even conducted serious scientific studies of the Moon's topography and conditions. She believed the bag was used in a space flight and made a decision to send it to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to confirm its authenticity. Also, Carlson said she'd set up a scholarship for students studying speech pathology at Northern Michigan University, her Alma Mater.

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