We are thrilled to be holding Sotheby’s first Space Exploration-themed auction since our two groundbreaking Russian Space History sales in the 1990s. In the intervening decades, the enthusiasm for space exploration has greatly increased, and the collecting field has grown dramatically.
Timed to coincide with the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20th, there will be a wide variety of material from both the American & Soviet space programs suited for both new and seasoned collectors - from lunar & space photography, flown mission artefacts and hardware, items from the personal collections of astronauts, autographed items, maps & charts, signed books, models, spacesuits, and much more.
The star lot in the sale is the Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return bag (lot 102), used by Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission to bring back the very first samples of the moon ever collected. Still containing remnants of lunar dust, this seemingly modest bag has undergone an incredible journey from the Earth to the moon and back, and to us here 48 years later. Due to an error very early on, the bag was misidentified and nearly thrown in the trash, and its true identity remained hidden up until just two years ago when it found its way into a seized assets auction held on behalf of the US Marshall's Service. The current owner purchased the bag along with a box full of other space-related odds and ends, and on a hunch, decided to send the bag to NASA for testing. It was determined that not only did the bag contain lunar dust, but it was in fact the very bag used by Neil Armstrong to bring back the contingency lunar sample. A legal battle to determine the rightful ownership of the bag ensued, with the current owner being awarded full ownership and clear title by a Federal judge — making this the only such artifact available for private ownership. We are very pleased to be able to say that it will be on view to the public for the very first time during our exhibition in July.