A unique opportunity to own a NASA-verified piece of the Apollo-11 contingency sample.
5 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) aluminum sample stubs, each topped with approximately 10 mm diameter carbon tape containing Apollo Moon dust, 4 of which with particles collected by Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, as part of the Apollo 11 contingency sample, July 21, 1969 and later removed by NASA from the Apollo 11 Contingency Sample Return Container (CSRC) Decontamination Bag; stubs hand numbered by NASA scientists in marker on bottom 2 through 6.
Neil Armstrong during a July 5th press conference at Houston:
"I think we're going to the Moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul. We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream" (Hansen p 202).
President Kennedy had foreseen the herculean effort it would take when he set the course for the Moon in his May 25, 1961 speech to Congress. Science and industry would have to work closely to accomplish one of the greatest feats in human history. Thousands of scientists, technicians, administrators, workers and, of course, brave astronauts focused their energies to land the first spacecraft containing humans on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 and return them, as well as lunar samples, safely back to Earth just a few days later. It was an event that captured the attention and admiration of the entire world on a level unlike anything before or since. It would be the apex of the space race that had begun with the launch of Sputnik-1 in October 4th, 1957, but also a scientific and technological touchstone that changed the world forever.
The NASA publication Apollo 11 Lunar Sample Information Catalogue (JSC 12522) states in the introduction: "The primary objectives of the Apollo 11 mission were to land men on the lunar surface, to collect lunar material for study, and to return both crew and samples safely to earth" (p 4). Mike Mallory, a member of the Apollo 11 Navy frogman recovery team who was put in charge of collecting the Lunar samples from the spacecraft is quoted as saying: "We were told: Save the Moon rocks first. We only have one bag of rocks. We have lots of astronauts" (Hansen p 205).
The present lunar dust was collected as part of the contingency sample. "This sample was intended to provide at least a small amount of lunar material for return to earth if it were necessary to terminate the surface portion of the mission early" (JSC 12522 p 8). This was intended to be Armstrong's first extra-vehicular activity (EVA) task after he descended the Lunar Module (LM) ladder to the surface and performed some initial preparation, although Houston had to remind him a few times to collect the sample: "Armstrong was so intent on taking a few pictures that he neglected to scoop up the contingency sample of lunar dust, a higher priority item that he was supposed to accomplish first in case something went wrong and he quickly needed to get back into the LM. NASA did not want to get all the way to the Moon and then not be able to bring back any lunar sample for scientific study" (Hansen p 270).
Armstrong, after making his famous statement regarding his first steps on the Moon, turned his attention to examining the lunar surface. He reported to Houston: "The surface is fine and powdery, I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles" (One Small Step, Apollo 11 EVA transcripts at 109:24:48).
It was into this powdery surface layer that "the contingency sample was taken in full view of the sequence camera just outside Quad IV of the lunar module and took about 3 minutes 35 seconds to collect. The sample bag was filled with two scoops for a total of approximately 1 kilogram. The areas scooped have been accurately located on a pre-extravehicular lunar module window photograph from study of the sequence film data. Both scoops included small rock fragments visible on the surface from the lunar module windows prior to sampling" (JSC 12522 p 14). Armstrong commented during the sample collecting: "This is very interesting. It's a very soft surface, but here and there where I plug with the contingency sample collector, I run into a very hard surface. But it appears to be a very cohesive material of the same sort. I'll try to get a rock in here. Just a couple." Aldrin: "That looks beautiful from here, Neil." Armstrong: "It has a starry beauty all its own. It's like much of the high desert of the United States. It's different, but it's very pretty out here. Be advised that a lot of the rock samples out here – the hard rock samples – have what appear to be vesicles in the surface. Also, I am looking at one now that appears to have some sort of phenocrysts" (One Small Step, Apollo 11 EVA transcripts at 109:34:12 through 109:35:08).
The contingency sample collection bag was a small 52 x 127 x 178 mm Teflon bag that fit on the end of an extendable aluminum handle about 845 mm long. Armstrong removed this bag from the scoop apparatus after he filled it, closed it and placed it in a strap-on pocket on his left thigh. He took the handle and pushed it into the surface to see how deeply it would go: about 150-200 mm. He detached the ring that held the Teflon collection bag and, in an impromptu experiment, threw it to see how far it would go. Later, when he was back in the Lunar Module, he placed the Teflon sample bag into the Beta cloth CSRC for its trip back to Earth.
The present lunar dust has an interesting history. It comes from the Apollo 11 Contingency Sample Return Container (CSRC) Decontamination Bag – the bag that contained the lunar dust-soiled Teflon bag of the Contingency Soil Sampler the Neil Armstrong used to scoop that first human-collected sample of the Moon (about 1 kg). Lunar dust is well-known for being particularly sticky thanks to high surface charge and it adhered to the interior of the CSRC Decontamination Bag. The bag, lost by NASA, eventually made its way to the personal collection of a past curator of the Hutchinson, Kansas space museum Cosmosphere who was found guilty of selling museum property. The bag was confiscated and sold to pay damages in a U.S. Marshal auction. The purchaser sent the bag to NASA for identification and testing. NASA confirmed that the bag was from the Apollo 11 mission after they removed the lunar material from the interior with double-sided carbon tape and had it tested by Dr. Roy Christoffersen at NASA JSC ARES. Apollo Sample Curator Dr. Ryan Zeigler made a deposition for Civil Action No. 19-2027-JTM-ADM. When he was asked by the interrogating attorney: "To give an overview, subsequently there was testing done at NASA, and it was determined that that lunar bag contained lunar dust and [was] actually flown on Apollo 11, is that correct?" Dr. Zeigler: "Ultimately that's what we discovered, that the bag had lunar dust in it and it was part of the Apollo 11 mission."
NASA made a claim on the bag and it was only after litigation that a U.S. district court judge ordered NASA to return it to the present owner. That bag was sold in a 2017 auction, although, as stated by Dr. Ziegler in his deposition for the above case in response to the interrogating attorney's question: "But you know this one when sold did not have lunar dust because NASA was still retaining it, is that correct?" Dr. Ziegler: "Yeah, it had been cleaned." It was only after a further settlement that NASA was made to return 5 of the 6 scanning electron microscope (SEM) sample stubs that contain the lunar material pulled from the bag.
The 5 SEM sample stubs were also individually tested by lunar expert and geologist Prof. Stephen J. Mojzsis on February 24 and 25, 2022 using a TESCAN Field-emission Gun Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG-ESEM). The methods of Secondary Electron Microscopy (SEM) with Energy-dispersive X-Ray analyzer (EDX) and Back-scattered Electron (BSE) imaging were used to confirm that the mineral grains on the sample stubs bear the compositional and textural characteristics of Apollo 11 lunar material on 4 of the 5 sample stubs. Curiously, Prof. Mojzsis also found that sample stub number 4 was different in several ways from the rest. The carbon tape containing the lunar particles is of a different generation than the others, the composition and arrangement of the lunar particles is different than the others, the written number on the bottom of the stub is apparently in a different hand from the others. "This suggests that the sampling protocol was different in orientation and technique ... from the other samples." This report is available upon request.
References: Hansen, James R. First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. NY: ; Kramer, F.E., D.B. Twedell & W.J.A. Walton, Jr, compilers. Apollo Lunar Sample Information Catalogue, (Revised). (JSC 12522). Houston: February 1977; Jones, Eric, ed. Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal: One Small Step. Washington: NASA Headquarters, April 18, 2018.
Please note, the catalog lot description for lot 21 has been amended.
The UPPERCASE TYPE heading for lot 21 now reads as follows: CONTENTS OF THE FIRST LUNAR SAMPLE. This is followed by a subheading in sentence type, which reads as follows: "A unique opportunity to own a NASA-verified piece of the Apollo-11 contingency sample." Finally, in the body of the catalog narrative the following text fragment has been struck: "... making this the first time that lunar dust was ever returned by NASA and the only verified Apollo lunar dust that can legally be sold."
Mike Mallory, a member of the Apollo 11 Navy frogman recovery team: "We were told: Save the Moon rocks first. We only have one bag of rocks. We have lots of astronauts" (Hansen p 205).
President John F. Kennedy speaking to the United States Congress on May 25, 1961:
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade [1960s] is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
"...it will not be one man going to the Moon—if we make this judgement affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."
President Kennedy at Rice University on September 12, 1962:
"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win...."