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Judge Ruled Apollo 11 Auctioned Moon Rock Belongs to Buyer Not NASA

Dec 21, 2016 04:27 AM EST
Lunar Sampling
A judge ruled that Nancy Carlson, who bought a bag of lunar sample, is the legitimate owner despite the rock being auctioned by mistake. NASA filed a case for the moon rock's returned, but the judge ruled in favor of the buyer.
(Photo : NASA/Central Press/Getty Images)

In a controversial twist, a judge ruled that an auctioned valuable moon rock belongs to its buyer and not NASA. It was reportedly auctioned by mistake.

Despite a long court battle, the law favored the buyer from Illinois who bought the rock and was proclaimed the rightful owner. Judge J. Thomas Marten made the historic decision citing good faith in favor of the buyer. The U.S. government petitioned to recover the rocks. The Apollo 11 mission and the first men to walk on the moon collected the priceless lunar sample.

"She is entitled to possession of the bag," Judge Marten wrote on the order. The bag referred to is a zipped pouch, which prevented the contamination of the moon rock artifact. It was clearly labeled as "Lunar Sample Return."

The first men on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, delivered the historic artifact to the planet. Today, Nancy Carlson is the rightful owner of the space rock based on Judge Marten's decision promulgated on the U.S. District Court in Kansas. Carlson paid $995 for the rock in an auction last February 2015.

The auction was held to benefit the U.S. Marshals Service where the lunar sample was mistakenly auctioned by mistake. This is due to a mix-up of labeling artifacts for auctions in line with Max Ary's case, a former curator for the Cosmosphere Space Museum.

NASA and the buyer appear to be both victims in the situation. Despite Carlson's right to own the space rock and the bag, the court is hopeful that an amicable resolution will push through between the agency and the rightful owner.

"The importance and desirability of the bag [lunar sample] stems solely and directly from the efforts of the men and women of NASA, whose amazing technical achievements, skills, and courage in landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely have not been replicated in almost half a century since the Apollo 11 landing," Judge Marten said in the resolution. "Perhaps that fact when reconsidered by the parties will allow them to amicable resolve the dispute in a way that recognizes both of their legitimate interests.

The bag is still with NASA's care after it was brought in for testing. Carlson is now entitled to file a motion for its return, according to a KMBC News.

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