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 $4000 (£2260).
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 (£14,365).
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).