Moon rocks from the 1970 USSR moon exploratory mission sells for over $850,000 at an auction in New York. It is the top lot of Sotheby’s second annual Space Exploration sale.
Space Exploration Auction
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Sotheby’s held the second annual Space Exploration sale in New York City. A wide variety of items from the American and Soviet space programs were offered, from photography to artwork, flown mission artifacts, autographed items, items from astronauts’ personal collections, maps, charts, and spacesuits.
But top lot among the items at the auction were three tiny moon rocks that were gathered from the September 1970 Luna-16 moon mission. The pebble-like rocks are about 0.079 by 0.079 inches and were previously sold also at a Sotheby’s auction way back in 1993 for over $440,000.
The auction was held just a month prior to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, which was the very first mission to orbit the moon. The sale total amounted to $2,506,438.
The tiny moon rocks were gathered by the robotic Luna-16 after it landed on the Sea of Fertility and drilled for samples on the surface. The entire mission lasted for 12 days, and the intact samples were returned back to Earth by Sept. 24.
Evidently, the rocks were initially given to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of the Soviet space program director Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, to honor his contributions to the space program.
Legal Moon Rock Sale
When the moon rocks were originally sold during the 1993 auction, it was the very first time that such a piece from another world was offered to the public for sale. According to Sotheby’s it is the only known legal sale of moon rocks.
Truly, many are eager to own a piece of space, or perhaps pieces of space exploration history. For instance, in a previous auction, a sample bag with moon dust from the 1969 mission was sold for $1.8 million. It was the one used by Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the lunar surface.