NASA is on a mission to recover lost moondust. And there are a few cockroaches

NASA is on a mission to recover lost moondust. And there are a few cockroaches ...

NASA has requested the safe return of moondust and cockroach samples that were scheduled to be sold in a private auction that ended June 23.

The space agency requested that RR Auction sell moondust collected by astronauts during the 1969 Apollo 11 expedition.

NASA sent some samples to a University of Minnesota researcher to see if the lunar rock contained any pathogen that threatened terrestrial life in 1969.

A lawyer for NASA wrote in a letter dated June 15 that the samples which included a vial of about 0.0014 ounces (40 milligrams) of dust from theMoon, the remains of three cockroaches, and dozens of microscope slides remain in the federal government.

The motleylotof goods, marketed as a "one-of-a-kind Apollo rarity," were expected to fetch US$400,000 at auction.

Marion Brooks' work is highlighted in a newspaper clipping from 6 October 1969. (RR Auction)

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"All Apollo samples, as stipulated in this collection of items, belong to NASA and no individual, university, or other entity has ever been granted permission to keep them after analysis, destruction, or other use for any purpose, especially for sale or individual display," according to the letter.

NASA has requested that RR Auction cease accepting bids for the lot immediately and that it "no longer facilitate the sale of any and all items containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment".

The moondust vial in the auction lot is only a fraction of what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected during their Moonlander: approximately 47 pounds (21.3 kilograms) of lunar rock.

According to the auction listing, about 4.5 pounds (2 kg) went to UM scientists at the university's Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Researchers studied how exposure to the dust affected insects, aquatic life, and microbes.

According to a 1970 article published in the Minnesota Science journal, "some animals were inoculated with dust, some received portions mixed with their food or water, and others walked or crawled through the dust embedded in their containers."

The cockroach specimens. (RR Auction)

Marion Brooks, a UM entomologist, took over the dust sample offered at auction. She tested the dust by feeding it to cockroaches.

Brooks fed the cockroaches a half-and-half diet [containing] regular food mixed with an equal amount of charcoal-gray lunar soil, according to an article published on 6 October 1969 in the Minnesota Tribune (now the Star Tribune) and reproduced in the auction listing online.

According to a Minnesota Science article, none of the animals involved in the experiments "went through any of the effects of the lunar dust."

According to The Washington Post, Brooks displayed the samples in her house rather than sending them to NASA at the conclusion of her research. Her daughter sold them several years after her mother's death in 2007.

Mark Zaid, the auction house's attorney, told The Washington Post that RR Auction is in touch with NASA on the agency's request.

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Live Science published this article on their website. Read the original article here.

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