Earlier this month, a peculiar sample went up for sale at Boston's Remarkable Rarities Auction, and NASA is politely requesting the sale doesn't go ahead as it claims the items belong to the federal government. The items in question? The remains of cockroaches that were once fed Apollo 11 moon dust samples.
The experiment, which may seem utterly bizarre, was to investigate if the lunar soil collected in 1969 contained any pathogen that posed a threat to life on Earth.
The auction items include remains of the moon dust and cockroach slides from the experiments conducted by Dr Marion Brooks in 1970. But it turns out, the items should not have been put up for sale because they still belong to NASA.
“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,” said NASA’s letter to RR Auctions dated June 15, Associated Press reports.
“We are requesting that you no longer facilitate the sale of any and all items containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment (the cockroaches, slides, and post-destructive testing specimen) by immediately stopping the bidding process.”
The items were sold by Dr Brooks's daughter in 2010 and have now been put up for auction again by someone else that RR Auction did not want to disclose. In another letter dated June 22, a lawyer for NASA asked the auction house to work with the current owner to return the samples to the federal government.
The auction house is now working with NASA to resolve the issue.