Moonlight shines on black markets... Apollo 11 lunar dust gets barred from sale

Regency Superior have offered and sold a number of top quality pieces of space memorabilia in recent years, including Neil Armstrong signatures and spacesuits praised by Buzz Aldrin and worn by Alan Shepard.

However this week they were offered something a little bit too special: moondust taken from the Apollo 11 mission.

The amount involved was tiny, described by the auction house's President David Kols as being the size of a finger tip. But material from the moon isn't exactly in ready supply, and any material taken through space, nevermind on Apollo 11 is valuable.

Unfortunately, it isn't legal. NASA didn't sanction the release of this material from the Apollo 11 mission into private hands.

Unlike the woman accused of trying to sell an Apollo moon rock last month, there doesn't seem to be any suggestion that it was submitted for auction in anything other than good faith.

She was selling the item which had been bought by her late husband with no idea where it had come from, and is reported to have been very gracious in relinquishing it to US authorities.

The source of the dust is believed to be the film cartridge of a camera used by astronauts on the first trip to the moon in 1969.

Currently available - a fragment of the moon
Moon rock offered at Heritage

The only significant amount of moon material from the Apollo missions not held by NASA or the US state comes in the form of moon rocks from the later moon missions which were handed out to other countries' governments as goodwill gestures. These cannot be sold.

There are exceptions. For example, Apollo 12 moonwalker Alan Bean creates art works involving materials taken on board the mission, such as boot prints from boots used on the moon which are coated with moon dust.

But for the most part the only commercially available moon material comes in the form of moon meteorites - and those are extremely rare and valuable.


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