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A Woman Actually Purchased Moon Dust and Now NASA Wants it Back

posted: 05/23/17
by: Amanda Mushro

We've all heard one man's trash is another man's treasure, but one lucky lady found treasure that is out of this world.

Two years ago Nancy Lee Carlson, a Chicago-area lawyer, purchased a small white pouch marked "Lunar Sample Return" for $995 on a U.S. Marshall's auction website. Carlson, who loves all things space related, believed there was more to this tiny bag and sent the bag off to NASA for testing.

Turns out, it wasn't just a random piece of astronaut paraphernalia. The bag originally belonged to astronaut Neil Armstrong, who filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Once he returned from that trip, he turned the bag over to a Houston lab, who then emptied the contents and then eventually lost track of the bag. Years later, Carlson was able to purchase the bag at the auction but the bag wasn't empty.

When officials at NASA realized the bag still contained moon dust, they claimed the bag belonged to the agency and refused to return it. That's when the court battle started.

Carlson filed a federal lawsuit, and finally in February, a judge said she had legally purchased the moon bag and was entitled to keep it. Now Carlson is planning on auctioning the bag and its contents, and experts feel she could receive four million dollars for the moon dust.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Cassandra Hatton, a vice president at Sotheby's in New York, the auction company that will handle the sale of the bag. "This transcends space exploration. It's a relic of one of the most historic achievements of humanity."

According to Sotherby's some of the proceeds of the sale will be used to benefit charities, and Carlson plans to set up a scholarship in speech pathology at Northern Michigan University, her alma matter.

So if you would love a little piece of the moon and have a few million to spare, the auction is set for June 20 on the 48th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11