A bag used by astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission to collect lunar samples is the center of a recent legal dispute.

The bag was stolen by Max Ary, the founder of the Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, who kept it in his garage for years. The government regained the control of the bag during the criminal case against him but accidently sold it.

The artifact can be considered a national treasure due to its rarity and the relevance of its content, and it was supposedly in the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. Image Credit: Neil Armstrong

What happened with the bag?

Max Ary was convicted in November 2005 of stealing museum artifacts, including a lot of space objects that were found later in his garage and other areas of his residence. Some of the objects found were artifacts loaned from NASA to the Cosmosphere museum, the lunar bag among them.

Initially, the bag was misidentified in the inventory spreadsheet, so it entered a lot of objects that were sold by the government in a forfeiture order against Ary’s belongings.  In an official auction executed on February 15 last year, the bag was sold to a lady identified as Nancy Carlson in Inverness, Illinois for $995.

Carlson sent it to the NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to be reviewed by experts and determine its authenticity. Once in the NASA office, officials discovered that the bag was authentic and claimed that the object was sold without permission or even without notification by the Federal authorities, so they did not return the artifact to Carlson.

In response to this conduct, Nancy Carlson sued NASA in June seeking the return of the object she claims it belongs to her. The legal dispute is currently developing in a federal court in Illinois.

The legal battle 

Federal prosecutors are now demanding to the judge who handled the criminal case against Max Ary to rescind the sale of the rare artifact, refunding the money Carlson invested buying the bag.  Now the bag is in between two legal disputes, the criminal case against Ary and the claim Carlson filed against the NASA over the property rights on the object.

If the judge in Ary’s case rescinds the sale, NASA will keep the object, and Nancy Carlson would receive an amount of money as restitution, which is considered the best solution by most.

The general public is mostly outraged by the mistake committed by the government. A lot of critics have been seen in social media about the incompetence of the justice’s auxiliary team while preparing the auction. The official response was that the bag was confused with another lunar bag, and both articles were identified as one in the numbers checked in the spreadsheet.

The Max Ary case

This is not the only lunar bag linked to Ary’s criminal case. A second bag was sold by Ary in 2001 during an auction, this time, an object used in the Apollo 17 mission. Ary gained more than $20,000 selling that particular artifact, but authorities recovered it during the investigation.

Max Ary was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served 70 percent. He also was ordered to pay more than $130,000 in restitution.

Source: Fox News