Ripley's lands Apollo 11 items, other moon objects at auction

Image via AP

The marshals were unaware at the time that the bag had actually flown on the historic moon mission, and Nancy Lee Carlson of IL was the only bidder. The bag ended up being stolen by a government employee, who was subsequently busted. When the eagle-eyed Chicagoland native who took advantage of the blunder to score the historic bag of moon dust sold it herself, through auction at Sotheby's on Thursday, it went for, well, considerably more: after the auction house's cut, $1.5 million. Overall, Sotheby's first space exploration sale totaled $3.8 million with 87.2 percent of lots sold, including 64 percent above their high estimates. That's actually a bargain considering it was expected to sell for anywhere between $US2 to 4 million ($2.5 to 5 million). However, it's still a huge chunk of change, and the seller says she plans to donate some of the money to a variety of charities. One year later, Carlson successfully bid only $995 to get her hands on the bag.

Inventory keeping was less than precise and, at some point between the 1970s and 1980s, the Smithsonian museum sent the lunar sample bag along with other items to Cosmosphere, which then sat in a stockroom.

NASA fought to get it back. And while the bag was originally expected to fetch a price of almost $2-4 million, what it has actually fetched still isn't something Sotheby's will be disappointed with.

Investigators unknowingly hit the motherlode in 2003 while searching the garage of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artefacts, including some that were on loan from NASA.

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Armstrong was the first to step foot on the moon, followed 20 minutes later by Aldrin. She was auctioned three times without finding a buyer, until a lawyer from IL does not hold in 2015 for a mouthful of bread: 995 dollars. Auctioneer Joe Dunning described the item as "an exceptionally rare artifact from mankind's greatest achievement". NASA confirmed that the bag did indeed contain moon dust, a dark-gray fine powder.

Sotheby's Vice President, Cassandra Hatton, has said we might find out more about the buyer later.

He ordered the government to return it. NASA wanted to keep the bag, but a court ruled she'd acquired it lawfully and they were forced to return it.

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