It doesn’t matter how you obtained those Moon rocks. NASA still claims ownership over all Apollo lunar samples even if you extracted them from cockroaches’ stomachs yourself. That’s what RR Auctions learned after trying to auction off a small amount of lunar dust alongside the cockroaches it came from.
According to collectSpace, NASA is halting an auction of a couple of dead cockroaches over the ownership of the Moon dust paired with them. Apparently, these roaches were fed the dust during experiments shortly after Apollo 11 returned.
This is a slightly significant piece of history as it was one of the first samples of lunar rocks that NASA gave to outside researchers. The reason? Well, to study moon bugs, of course!
Okay, no more bad puns, but yes, the cockroaches were actually used to make sure the Apollo 11 crew didn’t bring back any germs from the surface of the Moon. Of course, it seems silly now to worry about that, but back then, we barely knew what the surface was like, so it wasn’t far-fetched to think germs existed there.
While Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Micheal Collins were quarantined for 21 days post-splashdown, NASA sent samples to labs to test the lunar dust effects on different species. The lunar dust in this experiment was ingested by German Cockroaches and later extracted and contained in a vail.
NASA still claims ownership over Moon dust
The lot, being auctioned off by RR Auctions, contained slides, the formerly alive test subjects, and about 40 milligrams of lunar dust. That dust is where NASA found an issue with the sale. In a letter sent to RR Auctions, a NASA lawyer stated a claim to the ownership of the dust as the agency loaned it to a researcher at the University of St. Paul.
“NASA asserts legal ownership of the materials consisting of the Apollo 11 lunar dust experiment … based upon the information and documentation provided in the description of the lot and evidence regarding NASA’s contemporaneous contracting practices,” an attorney in NASA’s Office of the General Counsel wrote RR Auction in a letter on Wednesday, a week after first reaching out to the firm. “It is clear and undeniable that the materials consisting of the experiment are owned by NASA.”via collectSpace
While it was willingly sent to the university for research purposes, the ownership wasn’t transferred to the lab. This is common for NASA to retain ownership of the rocks when sending samples to researchers, museums, etc. RR Auctions appraised the lot to sell for over $400,000. Before the auction was shut down, the site had 12 bids, with the highest at $36,300.
For now, RR Auctions is cooperating with NASA and has shut down the lot’s auction. However, the auction house has yet to state if they will be sending the samples back to NASA or if it will fight the claims of ownership. So it might be wise to lay low if you too are in the procession of lunar-infused cockroaches.