NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wealthy space fans have the chance to own three small particles of lunar matter when Sotheby's, as the only known documented "moonstone" legally available for private ownership, reached the auction block in November.
Three lunar samples, of which Sotheby's say they are the only documented lunar rocks in private hands, from the unmanned Luna-1
Sotheby's said on Tuesday that the fragments were made $ 1 million could be raised from $ 700,000 at the October 29 auction in New York in 1970 by a Soviet space mission brought from the Moon.
The pieces – a basalt fragment similar to most of Earth's volcanic rock – and pieces of surface debris known as regolith – are sold by an unidentified private American collector who bought them in 1993.
Sotheby's said in one of them they were first sold in 1993 by Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of former Soviet Space Program Director Sergei Pavlovich Korolev.
The fragments, ranging in size from about 0.079 inches x 0.079 inches (2 x 2 mm) to 0.039 inches x 0.039 inches (1 x 1 mm), were presented to her on behalf of the Soviet Union as a gift in recognition of the contributions of her deceased Man to the program.
Sotheby & # 39; s said that the particles trapped under glass with a Russian plaque are the only known lunar sample ever officially gifted to a private party and whose provenance was available for private property.
Collectors pay large sums for space exploration artifacts. Last year, Sotheby's sold a Zipped "Lunar Sample Return" zipper bag, which was riddled with moon dust and used by Neil Armstrong for the first manned moon mission in 1969 for $ 1.8 million.
This sale took place after NASA lost a lawsuit to bring the artifact out of a private collection.
Most of the other Moon-derived samples remain with the two entities they have collected: the United States during the Apollo Missions 11-17 and the Soviet Union over the unmanned Luna-16, Luna-20 and Missions Luna-24.
A number of other countries have been gifted with Apollo 11 samples and Apollo 17 Goodwill moon rocks on behalf of the Nixon government, and in most places the law prohibits the transfer of such gifts to individuals.
The particles sold in November were recovered by Luna-16 in September 1970, which drilled a hole in the surface to a depth of 13.8 inches (35 cm) and extracted a core sample.
They are enclosed under glass under an adjustable lens and labeled "ЧАСТИЦЫ ГРУНТА ЛУНЫ-16" [SOIL PARTICLES FROM LUNA-16].
Tests on similar samples revealed that the bits are 3.4 billion years old.
Editing by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Kim Coghill