BOSTON – NASA is telling a Boston-based auction house ‘Houston, we have a problem.’
The space agency wants several Apollo 11 mission items returned that nearly ended up being auctioned on Thursday.
Amidst the collection is lunar dust brought back to Earth by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin after their trip to the moon in 1969.
According to an article published in the journal Minnesota Science in 1970, the astronauts bought back nearly 60 pounds of the rare soil, some of which was used in experiments to determine whether the dust posed a risk to living specimens.
Some of the dust was shipped to a Minnesota lab, where scientists performed experiments on German cockroaches.
The bugs’ carcasses were also included in the auction item that was expected to sell for more than $400,000.
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RR Auction says they received the possessions after family of a famed entomologist, who worked on the NASA contract, sold the items several years ago.
A representative from RR Auction says they pulled the items from bidding until the dispute over whom the rightful owners are is settled.
The Associated Press reports NASA sent a letter to the auction house that stated in part: "All Apollo samples, as stipulated in this collection of items, belong to NASA, and no person, university, or other entity has ever been given permission to keep them after analysis, destruction, or other use for any purpose, especially for sale or individual display."
Auctioneers say lunar material is virtually impossible to obtain, which makes the collection a rarity.