US: NASA wants its moon dust and cockroaches back. The space agency has asked Boston-based RR Auction to halt the sale of moon dust collected during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that had subsequently been fed to cockroaches during an experiment to determine if the lunar rock contained any sort of pathogen that posed a threat to terrestrial life.
The material, a NASA lawyer said in a letter to the auctioneer, still belongs to the federal government.
The material from the experiment, including a vial with about 40 milligrams of moon dust and three cockroach carcasses, was expected to sell for at least US$400,000, but has been pulled from the auction block, RR said Thursday. In another letter dated June 22, NASA’s lawyer asked RR Auction to work with the current owner of the material to return it to the federal government. The Apollo 11 mission brought more than 47 pounds (21.3 kilograms) of lunar rock back to Earth. Some was fed to insects, fish and other small creatures to see if it would kill them. The cockroaches that were fed moon dust were brought to the University of Minnesota where entomologist Marion Brooks dissected and studied them. But the moon rock and the cockroaches were never returned to NASA, instead displayed at Brooks’ home.
Her daughter sold them in 2010, and now they are up for sale again by a consignor who RR did not disclose. It’s not unusual for a third party to lay claim to something that is being auctioned, said Mark Zaid, an attorney for RR Auction. – SEATTLE TIMES