IN the 18th century, it was widely believed that meteorites found on Earth were pieces of the moon that had been blasted into space by volcanic eruption. We now know that almost all meteorites come from the asteroid belt and that it was the pummelling that the moon received in the early years of the formation of our solar system that allowed some chunks of moon rock to escape the moon’s gravitational influence and, periodically, find their way to Earth.
However, of the tens of thousands of meteorites that have
been found on Earth, only a tiny percentage are of lunar origin
and, as a consequence, these are highly prized.
The US government own almost every gram of the moon
collected by astronauts and around half of the recorded lunar
meteorites are held in national collections, following their
recovery from Antarctica. A May 2 natural history sale* held
by I.M. Chait of Beverly Hills, however,
included a tiny, 19mm wide and 1mm thick fragment from a meteorite
known as Dhofar 280, discovered three years ago
in the Rub' Al Khali desert in Oman and identified as being of
lunar origin by Dr Nazarov of the Vernadsky Institute in Moscow, a
leading researcher in the field. This little slice (pictured twice
life-size top right), is a fragmental breccia
that contains one especially large inclusion of white anorthosite,
a signature mineral of the moon.
Collectors and museums alike were interested in this lunar
sliver and it was Ripley's Believe it or Not! group - who spent
over $200,000 in all at the California auction - who secured it at
On March 27 Swanns of New York held
a 'Space Exploration' sale (coincidentally or by design, numbered
2001) in which "flown" articles from the collections of Buzz
Aldrin, Michael Collins, Gordon Cooper and other astronauts were,
as in other Space sales, the major attraction.
A 6in (15cm) square Apollo II Beta
emblem on Teflon-coated fibreglass, signed by Michael Collins, the
command module pilot (and vendor) and by Neil Armstrong and Buzz
Aldrin, who made that historic first landing on the moon in 1969,
was sold for $31,000 (£17,125) and part of a photographic
navigational chart used by Armstrong and Aldrin as they approached
the moon's surface for touchdown in the LEM reached $26,000
The item that I have selected for illustration,
below right, however, is something far more personal - Buzz
Aldrin's toothbrush! A blue Lactona 'Tooth Tip' model, complete
with storage sleeve and blue Velcro patch that designates it as the
property of the LMP, the Lunar Module Pilot and one of the first
two toothbrushes to touch down on the moon's surface, it was sold
for $16,000 (£8840).