A bag used by Neil Armstrong to gather moon dust was sold at an auction on Thursday. The bag was owned by a space enthusiast, who purchased it on a U.S. Marshal’s sale for only $995. The bag was used by Armstrong to collect samples on the moon during the Apollo mission in 1969.

The bag was sold on the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The lucky buyer paid $1.8 million for the piece of space history. The auction took place in Sotheby’s in New York.

Neil Armstrong's lunar sample bag. Image Credit: Jewel Samad / Getty Images
Neil Armstrong’s lunar sample bag. Image Credit: Jewel Samad / Getty Images

NASA wasn’t thrilled with the decision, as space enthusiast Nancy Carlson had sued the agency after they refused to return the bag to her. However, in late February a court ruled Carlson was the rightful owner of Armstrong’s sample bag.

Armstrong’s lunar bag was sold for $1.8 million

Armstrong’s bag had been forgotten for a while until Carlson saw it on a government auction website.

“I did see a bag that was described as a lunar bag,” said Carlson, according to CBS News. “Flown. With a number on it. And it included the word moon dust.”

She placed her bid for $995, and a week later the lunar bag arrived. She sent the bag to NASA to confirm it was real, but the agency claimed it was their property and they refused to send it back to Carlson.

The Chicago-based woman filed a lawsuit against the space agency. NASA wanted to keep the bag and argued the item was unique and should never have been sold to a private collector, according to the U.S. District Court in Kansas. The lunar bag had ended up in the hands of a U.S. Marshals Service after a property seizing from a space museum president, who had been convicted of fraud and stealing from such museum. The bag was found in the president’s garage but was misidentified.

On February, a Kansas judge ruled the lunar bag belonged to her, as she had purchased it fairly. The court said that “no one, including the United States, realized that this bag was used on Apollo 11 and was a historically important item.” Afterward, she sent the bag to a security company, while she figured what to do with it. And she finally figured what to do: sell it.

Items auctioned at Sotheby's include lunar rocks and mementos from earlier space programs. Image Credit: collectSPACE
Items auctioned at Sotheby’s include lunar rocks and mementos from earlier space programs. Image Credit: collectSPACE

Carlson noted she believed the precious bag wouldn’t be safe in her home, so she decided to auction it.

“I found a piece of history that everybody forgot about,” said Carlson. “So that’s my great gratification in all this. I saved it from being lost.”

Space Snoopy was also sold at the auction

Sotheby’s expected to get between $2 million and $4 million for the item, although it only reached $1.8 million. CBS News reported the bidding for the bag went slowly, and the bids went up in small increments. The auction company didn’t say who purchased the bag, as it was someone identifying itself as “Lo118.”

Sotheby’s sold several space items on Thursday, in what they called “Sotheby’s Exploration sale.” Although the lunar bag was the star of the auction, other famous space items were sold. For instance, a snapshot of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the Moon was presented on Thursday.

Sotheby’s tweeted that the picture was bought for more than $35,000 at the auction, which was far more –seven times more, in fact- than what they expected.

A flight plan autographed by crew members of the Apollo 13 mission was sold at the auction, too. Sotheby’s said the item was sold for $275,000, over six times what they expected to obtain for the flight plan. The auction house also sold a picture of astronaut Charlie Duke on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission, for a final price of $37,500.

Sotheby’s sold two more items that day: an old picture of man’s first look at Earth from the moon, which got three times its high estimate ($17,500), and a Snoopy astronaut doll, the “mascot” of the Apollo 10 mission. Sotheby’s expected to receive between $2000 and $3000, but the Snoopy went out for $27,500.

Astronaut Snoopy. Image Credit: Inverse
Astronaut Snoopy. Image Credit: Inverse

Carlson will donate part of the sale proceeds to charity

Overall, Sotheby’s made $3.8 million in total on their Exploration sale. Cassandra Hatton, who handled the lunar bag sale for Sotheby’s, said the main item was a one-of-a-kind piece.

“I just say Neil Armstrong moon dust – you get it,” Hatton told CBS News. “You don’t have to American to understand why this is so important and this is also what’s exciting about this. I could talk to a 5-year-old in China, and they would get excited about this.”

According to Sotheby’s, Carlson plans to share part of the sale proceeds with several charities, such as the Bay Cliff Health Camp Children’s Therapy and Wellness Center and the Immune Deficiency Foundation. Also, Carlson said she’d set up a scholarship for students studying speech pathology at Northern Michigan University, her Alma Mater.

Source: CBS News