NASA: Give us back our moon dust and cockroaches

Jun 23, 2022, 2:35 PM | Updated: 2:56 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

An Emirates Boeing 777 stands at the gate at Dubai International Airport as another prepares to lan...
Associated Press

Dubai sees air travel surge, expects FIFA World Cup boost

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai International Airport saw a surge in passengers over the first half of 2022 as pandemic restrictions eased and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar will further boost traffic to the city-state’s second airfield, its chief executive said Wednesday. Paul Griffiths, who oversees the world’s busiest airport for […]
4 hours ago
Beachgoers take cover in the shade near wind turbines along the coast of Pingtan in Southern China'...
Associated Press

China and US spar over climate on Twitter

BEIJING (AP) — The world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are sparring on Twitter over climate policy, with China asking if the U.S. can deliver on the landmark climate legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden this week. After Congress passed the bill last Friday, U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns took to […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who is missing in Syria, speak during a pre...
Associated Press

Syria denies it is holding American journalist Austin Tice

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria denied on Wednesday it is holding U.S. journalist Austin Tice or other Americans after President Joe Biden accused the Syrian government of detaining him. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Damascus “denies it had kidnapped or is holding any American citizen on its territories.” “The U.S. issued […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Victims of UK tainted blood scandal to get government payout

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people in Britain who contracted HIV or hepatitis from transfusions of tainted blood in the 1970s and 1980s will receive 100,000 pounds ($120,000) in compensation, the U.K. government said Wednesday. Survivors welcomed the payment, which came after years of campaigning, but said it should be expanded to include more people […]
4 hours ago
FILE - Missouri and American flags fly outside Planned Parenthood June 24, 2022, in St. Louis. Plan...
Associated Press

Planned Parenthood to spend record $50M in midterm elections

WASHINGTON (AP) — Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider and abortion rights advocacy organization, plans to spend a record $50 million ahead of November’s midterm elections, pouring money into contests where access to abortion will be on the ballot. The effort, which breaks the group’s previous $45 million spending record set in […]
4 hours ago
A student at Lakewood Elementary School in Cecilia, Ky., uses her laptop to participate in an emoti...
Associated Press

Youth mental health is in crisis. Are schools doing enough?

CECILIA, Ky. (AP) — For fourth-grader Leah Rainey, the school day now begins with what her teacher calls an “emotional check-in.” “It’s great to see you. How are you feeling?” chirps a cheery voice on her laptop screen. It asks her to click an emoji matching her state of mind: Happy. Sad. Worried. Angry. Frustrated. […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
NASA: Give us back our moon dust and cockroaches