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Priceless Lunar Artifact from NASA Apollo 11 Mission Gets Sold by Mistake

Aug 08, 2016 02:44 AM EDT
Apollo 11 Artifacts Auctioned Ahead Of Anniversary Of Moon Landing
NEW YORK - JULY 16: A prototype model of Space Shuttle reusable engines is displayed at 'The Space Sale' auction of NASA artifacts at Bonhams New York July 16, 2009 in New York City. Rare NASA items, including Apollo 11 artifacts, are being auctioned off to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 manned lunar landing.
(Photo : Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A lunar artifact used in NASA's Apollo 11 mission has reportedly been sold off at an auction - by mistake. Now, the artifact has been thrust at the center of a legal dispute against the director of Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Max Ary.

The lunar artifact, which is a national treasure according to government officials, is none other than the bag used by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. This was used in the Apollo 11 mission almost 50 years past. It was used to contain the first samples of rocks from the moon.

Despite its historical importance, the bag was mistakenly sold at a government auction in 2015. It was reportedly Ary who had stolen and sold off a number of space artifacts from NASA, most of which were on loan for the Cosmosphere and Space Center. Investigations claim that the bag was discovered during a search of Ary's premises in 2003.

A decade later, the bag was said to have been sold to an Illinois resident, Nancy Carlson. Carlson had bought the lunar artifact for $995. It was then sent to NASA's Johnson Space Center for proper authentication. Once NASA had been notified of the sale, the artifact was withheld from Carlson, who had sued the agency in hopes of acquiring the bag back.

Apparently, there were two bags which had the same inventory identification numbers which caused the confusion. The other bag was used for the Apollo 17 mission, which was aboard the Lunar Module Challenger. It was this bag that Ary had sold during the 2001 auction for a price of $24,150. This bag was recovered by the government.

Now, federal prosecutors are seeking aid from the federal judge from Kansas, who had handled Ary's case, to rescind the sale and offer a refund to Carlson for the lunar artifact. On the other hand, Ary has been released after being imprisoned from 1976 to 2002. He still claims innocence for the lunar artifacts sold from his home.

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