NASA: Give us back our moon dust and cockroaches

Jun 23, 2022, 1:56 AM | Updated: Jun 26, 2022, 6:20 pm
This April 2022 handout photograph provided by RR Auction shows moon dust from the 1969 Apollo 11 m...

This April 2022 handout photograph provided by RR Auction shows moon dust from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which was pulled from an auction listing after NASA said the dust, and some cockroaches that were fed the dust, are property of the federal government. (Lawrence McGlynn/RR Auction photo via AP)

(Lawrence McGlynn/RR Auction photo via AP)

BOSTON (AP) — NASA wants its moon dust and cockroaches back.

The space agency has asked Boston-based RR Auction to halt the sale of moon dust collected during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that had subsequently been fed to cockroaches during an experiment to determine if the lunar rock contained any sort of pathogen that posed a threat to terrestrial life.

The material, a NASA lawyer said in a letter to the auctioneer, still belongs to the federal government.

The material from the experiment, including a vial with about 40 milligrams of moon dust and three cockroach carcasses, was expected to sell for at least $400,000, but has been pulled from the auction block, RR said Thursday.

“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 dated June 15.

It went on: “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,” NASA wrote.

In another letter dated June 22, NASA’s lawyer asked RR Auction to work with the current owner of the material to return it to the federal government.

The Apollo 11 mission brought more than 47 pounds (21.3 kilograms) of lunar rock back to Earth. Some was fed to insects, fish and other small creatures to see if it would kill them.

The cockroaches that were fed moon dust were brought to the University of Minnesota where entomologist Marion Brooks dissected and studied them.

“I found no evidence of infectious agents,” Brooks, who died in 2007, told the Minneapolis Tribune for an October 1969 story. She found no evidence that the moon material was toxic or caused any other ill effects in the insects, according to the article.

But the moon rock and the cockroaches were never returned to NASA, instead displayed at Brooks’ home. Her daughter sold them in 2010, and now they are up for sale again by a consignor who RR did not disclose.

It’s not unusual for a third party to lay claim to something that is being auctioned, said Mark Zaid, an attorney for RR Auction.

“NASA has a track record of pursuing items related to the early space programs,” although they have been inconsistent in doing so, Zaid said. By its own admission, NASA acknowledged in one of its letters that it did not know about the previous auction of the cockroach experiment items.

“We have worked with NASA before and have always cooperated with the U.S. government when they lay claims to items,” Zaid said. “At the end of the day, we want to act appropriately and lawfully.”

RR Auction is holding on to the lot for now, but ultimately, it’s up to the consignor to work something out with NASA, he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak...
Associated Press

UK’s Johnson vows to stay in office after top ministers quit

LONDON (AP) — A defiant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was battling to stay in power on Wednesday after his government was rocked by the resignation of two top ministers, who said they could no longer serve under his scandal-tarred leadership. His first challenge is getting through Wednesday, where he faces tough questions at the […]
1 day ago
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her speech at the European Parliament d...
Associated Press

EU chief warns of danger of complete cut-off of Russian gas

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the 27-nation Europe Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is […]
1 day ago
FILE - Mohammad Barkindo, Secretary-General of OPEC, is shown during a panel discussion at CERAWeek...
Associated Press

OPEC secretary-general is dead, Nigerian officials announce

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has died, Nigerian authorities announced Wednesday. Mohammad Barkindo, 63, died late Tuesday, a spokesperson for Nigeria’s petroleum ministry told The Associated Press. The reason for his death was not immediately known. Mele Kyari, Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

The next frontier for drones: letting them fly out of sight

REMINGTON, Va. (AP) — For years, there’s been a cardinal rule for flying civilian drones: Keep them within your line of sight. Not just because it’s a good idea — it’s also the law. But some drones have recently gotten permission to soar out of their pilots’ sight. They can now inspect high-voltage power lines […]
1 day ago
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pos...
Associated Press

Marcos plays balancing act in meeting with China’s FM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — New Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will meet China’s top diplomat Wednesday to discuss long-simmering disputes in the South China Sea, as he wades into foreign policy dilemmas that include the U.S.-China rivalry in the region. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, wearing a native Filipino formal shirt, met his counterpart for […]
1 day ago
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stands in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam o...
Associated Press

Russian foreign minister stops in Vietnam ahead of G-20

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Vietnam on Wednesday as part of an effort to bolster ties with a country that has not openly condemned its invasion of Ukraine. Lavrov, on his way to the Indonesian island of Bali for a G-20 meeting, sought to strengthen ties with Vietnam, which also […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
NASA: Give us back our moon dust and cockroaches