Neil Armstrong's Bag of Moon Dust Is Going Up for Auction

After being stolen, lost, and snapped up by a private citizen, the historic space artifact is now expected to sell for at least $2 million.

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May 23 2017, 4:47pm

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

On the spectrum of weird shit people sell at auctions—from Truman Capote's ashes to Patrick Swayze's G-string—the bag Neil Armstrong used to collect lunar samples in 1969 is probably the most historically iconic. After trekking to the moon and back, getting lost, and then spending a wild stint in the nation's courts, the artifact is finally hitting the auction house, the Washington Post reports.

Sotheby's will turn over the bag to the highest bidder at a sale in New York on July 20—the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing—where it's expected to fetch anywhere from $2 million to $4 million. Almost all the other relics from the mission are housed in the Smithsonian, and according to Sotheby's, this is the only remaining item from the landing in private hands.

Armstrong used the bag to collect the first ever samples from the surface of the moon, and brought it back to Earth at the end of his mission in 1969. The government then tested the specimens and declared the bag a national treasure—before losing it. The bag didn't turn up again until 2003, when the feds found it hidden in the garage of a man who ran a space museum in Kansas. Once it was back in the government's hands, it was mislabeled and then auctioned off as a different bag from a less-impressive mission.

Nancy Carlson, a lawyer from Chicago, snapped it up in 2015 for just $995 in that auction. After sending it to NASA for testing, Carlson learned it had been used by Armstrong just after his "giant leap for mankind"—and that the government wanted it back.

After a contentious legal battle, a judge ruled that Carlson could keep the bag, but after learning of its true value, she decided she would place it up for auction again. Carlson plans donate a portion of the proceeds to a few charities, as well as start a scholarship at Northern Michigan University, her alma mater.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Still, NASA is hoping the bag doesn't wind up in private hands.

"This artifact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public, which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred," the agency said in a statement.

It's not a tough sentiment to sympathize with, but considering the government's history of handling it, the moon bag may be better off with someone who can accurately identify it.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

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