Soviet era moon fragments could reach $1m at auction

Tiny moon rocks collected by a Soviet lander are going up for auction November 29.                  Sotheby's

Tiny moon rocks collected by a Soviet lander are going up for auction November 29. Sotheby's

Three tiny bits of Moon fragments, which were collected from the 1970 Soviet Luna-16 mission, are expected to be sold for up to $1m when they go to auction next month.

"It was the first time a piece of another world had ever been offered for sale to the public", Sotheby's said of that sale.

The moon rocks (held under glass as shown above) will be up for auction on November 29 in NY as part of Sotheby's second annual Space Exploration sale.

That sale took place after NASA lost a court battle to retrieve the artifact from a private collection.

The lunar samples were originally presented by the Soviet government to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the "Chief Designer" of the Russian space program.

The incredible rarity of dust and rocks collected from the lunar surface means that when genuine samples appear for sale, they achieve huge sums at auction.

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Most other known moon samples remain the property of the USA and the Russian space programs.

The lunar soil samples have basaltic central fragment with feldspar crystals, surficial debris called regolith, and glass coatings caused by micro-meteorite impact. Touching down after the U.S. Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts had come and gone from the moon, Luna 16 deployed an extendable arm to drill and extract a core sample 14 inches (35 centimeters) deep.

This lunar sample return mission came after five unsuccessful attempts by the Soviet Union, and was the third mission of this kind overall, following the Apollo 11 and 12 spacecraft.

Luna 16 was also the first probe to land in darkness.

The spacecraft descent stage was equipped with a video camera, radiation and temperature monitors, telecommunications equipment, and a drilling rig.

The USSR used it to show that versatile space robots were cheaper than manned flights without putting humans lives at risk. He died unexpectedly before the samples could be gifted to him. The buyer, who remains anonymous, has owned the samples, which are encased under glass below an adjustable lens and labeled "ЧАСТИЦЫ ГРУНТА ЛУНЫ-16" (Soil Particles from Luna-16), for the past 25 years.

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