A judge has ruled that a woman from Illinois is the legal owner of an Apollo 11 moon rock bag that was sold by the U.S. government at an auction by mistake.
Contested Bag Brought To The Moon By Apollo 11 Astronauts
In February 2015, Nancy Carlson bought the lunar bag for $995 at a Texas auction that was held on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service but the government later petitioned for the reversal of the sale so the lunar sample bag would be returned to NASA.
On Dec. 14, Judge J. Thomas Marten of the U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, ruled that Carlson is the legal owner of the historical artifact that was used to collect lunar samples during the first manned mission to the moon in July 1969.
The bag served to protect the moon rocks that were collected and brought to Earth by America's pioneering astronauts. The Apollo 11 mission astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. collected 47.5 pounds (21.5 kilograms) of materials from the moon to be brought to and studied on Earth.
Why The Apollo 11 Bag Was Offered For Sale In Government Auction
The bag was found with other space artifacts in the home of former director of Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center Max Ary, who was convicted in 2006 for selling stolen space artifacts belonging to the space museum.
Ary served two years behind bars and was sentenced to pay more than $132,000 as restitution. The space artifacts in his home were forfeited to pay up his debt. Unfortunately, the rare Apollo 11 artifact was thought of as belonging to Ary and eventually landed in the hands of Carlson when it was put up for auction.
The bag's history was only discovered after Carlson shipped it to NASA's Johnson Space Center for authentication. The U.S space agency, which was not notified of nor gave permission for the sale of the bag, withheld the artifact.
NASA Not The Wrongdoer
"No one, including the United States, realized at the time of forfeiture that this bag was used on Apollo 11," the judge wrote in the summary of the case. Marten added that NASA was not actually a wrongdoer but a victim in the case.
Carlson has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Texas for the return of the historic bag, with her title to the artifact now ordered by the Kansas court.