Apollo bag
This Apollo 11 contingency lunar sample return bag was used by Neil Armstrong to bring back the first pieces of the moon ever collected. Traces of moon rock and lunar dust remain in the bag, which comes up for auction at Sotheby’s inaugural Space Exploration sale on July 20. It has an estimate of $2m-4m.

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At Sotheby’s, a lunar sample bag used by Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 is estimated at $2m-4m. The bag still contains traces of moon dust and small lunar rock fragments, making it “the most important space artefact to ever appear at auction”, according to the auction house.

The bag was purchased at auction by its current owner in 2015 for $995. The history of the bag was unknown and the vendor sent it to NASA for analysis. There it was discovered that it was a contingency lunar sample return bag containing moon dust. A tag inside corroborated evidence that the dust it came from the Apollo 11 landing site.

US law forbids private ownership of individual samples of lunar rock and the sale follows a court battle between NASA and the vendor over possession of the bag. The vendor has promised some of the proceeds will go to scientific research.  

The lot is offered on Sotheby’s inaugural Space Exploration sale on July 20.

Cosmic rays Nobel Prize goes under the hammer

The Sotheby’s sale precedes Bonhams’ Air and Space sale (September 27), but Bonhams will also offer another object of astronomical history earlier in the summer during its Fine Books and Manuscripts auction on June 7th.

The Nobel Prize Medal for Physics, awarded to Austrian scientist Victor Hess in 1936, will go under the hammer with an estimate of $300,000-500,000. Hess won the award for his discovery of cosmic rays. A series of tests conducted in a hot air balloon from 1911-13, during which he measured ionisation, proved that radiation came in rays from outside the atmosphere rather than from the earth itself as had previously been believed.

The discovery laid a groundwork for further discoveries in particle and nuclear physics.

Bonhams offers the medal and the elaborate award document in a single lot.