FLOWN TO THE MOON ON APOLLO 11
- FLOWN APOLLO 11 CONTINGENCY LUNAR SAMPLE RETURN OUTER DECONTAMINATION BAG, 1969
- white Beta-cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and brass zipper closure, moon dust
DURING THE FIRST FEW MINUTES OF MAN'S FIRST LUNAR EXPLORATION, ARMSTRONG COLLECTED NEARLY 500 GRAMS OF MATERIAL FINER THAN 1 CM, AS WELL AS 12 ROCK FRAGMENTS LARGER THAN 1 CM FROM AN AREA JUST A FEW STEPS AWAY FROM THE LUNAR MODULE EAGLE, IN THE REGION KNOWN AS THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY. GIVEN THE THEN-UNKNOWN NATURE OF LUNAR MATERIAL, THIS SPECIALLY DESIGNED BETA-CLOTH DECONTAMINATION BAG WAS USED TO PREVENT POTENTIAL CONTAMINATION OF THE LUNAR SAMPLES PRIOR TO EXAMINATION BY SCIENTISTS, AS WELL AS TO PROTECT THE COMMAND MODULE AND PLANET EARTH FROM POTENTIAL LUNAR PATHOGENS.
On July 16th, 1969 at 9:32 EDT the world watched as the Apollo 11 space vehicle launched, carrying on board its crew: Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. After a 2½ hour checkout period, the Saturn V rocket's third stage injected Command Service Module (CSM) Columbia and Lunar Module (LM) Eagle into the translunar phase of the mission, and at approximately 76 hours, the spacecraft was inserted into lunar orbit. At 100 hours the LM was undocked, and about 90 minutes later, the descent orbit insertion maneuver was performed with a near 30 second burn of the descent propulsion system. Approximately 70 minutes later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down onto the lunar surface aboard the Eagle in the Sea of Tranquility. (See LOT 100, Apollo 11 Mission Report)
On July 20th, 1969, at 109 hours and 42 minutes after launch, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. An estimated 530 million people watched the live broadcast of the momentous event and heard Armstrong speak the now-legendary words: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." After stepping onto the lunar surface, Armstrong immediately set about performing the most important scientific task of the mission — the collection of the contingency lunar sample. “The contingency sample was taken in view of the sequence camera… Two scoopfuls filled the sample bag with approximately 1.03 kilograms of surface material... Both scoopfuls included small rock fragments... visible on the surface from the lunar module windows.” (LOT 100, Apollo 11 Mission Report, p 11-10)
THE COLLECTION OF THE CONTINGENCY LUNAR SAMPLE ABOVE ALL OTHERS WAS THE TOP PRIORITY, as described in the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Operations Plan (LOT 98): “The nominal plan is to conduct three sample collections of lunar surface material. They are, in order of priority, the contingency, the bulk, and the documented sample collection. The contingency sample… will assure the return of a small sample in a contingency situation where a crewman may remain on the surface for only a short period of time. One to two kilograms of loose material will be collected near the LM ladder and the sample bag restowed in the suit pocket to be carried into the ascent stage when the crewman ingresses” (LOT 98, p 21). Nothing was left to chance in the mission, and the exact, step-by-step process for collecting the contingency lunar sample was described for the astronauts in detail: “Remain within a few feet of ladder, remove the CSC [Contingency Sample Container] from suit pocket. Deploy the CSC handle and pull strap at base of bag to open. Collect sample, in undisturbed area. Pull locking pin on handle release lever. Press release lever and separate handle from lip/bag assembly. Discard handle under or away from LM. Detach bag from lip assembly. Discard lip assembly under or away from LM. Seal sample bag. Restow and secure bag in suit pocket." (LOT 98, p 42)
The full contingency sample collection procedure proceeded as follows (from the Apollo 11 Technical Air-to-Ground Transcript):
04 13 33 58 LMP (Aldrin, observing from the LM): “Okay. The contingency sample is down and it’s ***. Looks like it’s a little difficult to dig through the initial crust.”
04 13 34 12 CDR (Armstrong): “This is very interesting. It’s a very soft surface, but here and there where I plug with the contingency sample collector, I run into a very hard surface, but it appears to be very cohesive material of the same sort. I’ll try to get a rock in here. Just a couple.
04 13 34 54 LMP (Aldrin): “That looks beautiful from here, Neil.
04 13 34 56 CDR (Armstrong): “It has a stark beauty all its own. It’s like much of the high desert of the United States. It’s different but it’s very pretty out here. Be advised that a lot of the rock samples out here, the hard rock samples, have what appear to be vesicles in the surface. Also, I am looking at one now that appears to have some sort of phenocryst." .....
04 13 36 35 CDR (Armstrong): “That [spacesuit] pocket open, Buzz?”
04 13 36 35 LMP (Aldrin): Yes, it is. It’s not up against your suit though. Hit is back once more. More toward the inside. Okay. That’s good.”
04 13 36 37 CDR (Armstrong): “That [the contingency sample] in the pocket?”
04 13 36 42 LMP (Aldrin): “Yes, push down.”
04 13 36 55 CDR (Armstrong): “Got it?”
04 13 36 57 LMP (Aldrin): “No. It’s not all the way in. Push it. There you go.”
04 13 37 08 CDR (Armstrong): “Contingency sample is in the pocket. My oxygen in 81 percent. I have no flags, and I’m in minimum flow.”
04 13 37 22 CC (CapCom): “This is Houston. Roger, Neil.”
Approximately 20 minutes after Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, Buzz Aldrin joined him. The TV camera was then positioned about 30 feet from the LM onto a tripod, and about 30 minutes later, the astronauts spoke with President Nixon via telephone link. Armstrong and Aldrin then continued to perform their EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity, ie. Moonwalk), which lasted more than 2½ hours, and in which they both ranged up to 300 feet from the LM. During this period, Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP), which included Lunar Passive Seismology, Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector, and Solar Wind Composition tests. Armstrong and Aldrin then gathered and verbally reported on the bulk lunar samples. Aldrin returned to the LM after just under two hours on the lunar surface, and Armstrong followed him approximately 41 minutes later. After spending a total of 21 hours, 36 minutes on the lunar surface, Armstrong and Aldrin fired the engine of the ascent stage of the LM, and at 128 hours three minutes into the mission, docked with the CSM (Command Service Module) Columbia.
Listed in three different spots on the Apollo 11 Final Stowage List (LOT 99) as “Decontamination Bag, Contingency Lunar SRC [Sample Return Container],” the present bag was first stored inside the Decontamination Bag for the Sample Return Container No. 1(Large Rock Box) which was located in stowage locker A8 of the Command Module (LOT 99, List A, page 34). Upon docking with the LM after taking off from the lunar surface, the decontamination bags were then transferred by CM Pilot Michael Collins to Neil Armstrong through a small hatch located between the LM and the CM. All of the items that were to be transferred from the LM to the CM were first cleaned using a vacuum brush attached to the lunar module suit return hose. The suction was low, and so the task was not only tedious for the astronauts, but also not 100% effective, as evidenced by the lunar dust found in the present bag. After the items were vacuumed, they were then transferred from the LM to the CM, and the present bag was then placed in stowage locker A5 (LOT 99, List E, p. 79). The bag is last listed on page 114 of the Stowage list, to confirm final placement for the CM’s entry back into the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean splashdown.
A discussion of the bag between Mission Commander Neil Armstrong and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins can be found in the Apollo 11 Command Module On-Board Voice Transcript:
05 09 12 58 CDR (Armstrong): “If you want to have a look at what the moon looks like, you can open that up and look. Don’t open the bag though.”
05 09 14 17 CMP (Collins): “What was that bag?”
05 09 14 20 CDR (Armstrong): “Contingency Sample.”
05 09 14 23 CMP (Collins): “Rock?”
05 09 14 25 CDR (Armstrong): “Yes, there’s some rocks in it, too. You can feel them, but you can’t see them; they’re covered with that – graphite.”
05 09 14 39 CMP (Collins): “…compared to – “
05 09 14 45 CDR (Armstrong): “Looks like powdered graphite to me.”
On July 21, trans-Earth injection of the CSM began, and re-entry procedures were initiated on July 24, 44 hours after leaving lunar orbit. The Service Module (SM) separated from the CM, turned to a heat-shield forward position, and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. At 195 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds on July 24th, the Apollo 11 capsule splashed down into the Pacific Ocean bringing its crew safely back home.
The crew was then retrieved by helicopter and taking to the primary recovery ship, the USS Hornet. Precautions were taken to avoid back-contamination by any lunar organisms, so the crew donned biological isolation garments, and then were placed, along with the lunar samples, in the Mobile Quarantine Facility for transport to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston. After arrival at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, the spacecraft, samples, and the crew were sent to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory quarantine area where they underwent post-landing analysis and observation. On August 10, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew and spacecraft were released from quarantine after no abnormal medical reactions were observed.
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.
THIS IS INDEED THE RAREST AND MOST IMPORTANT SPACE EXPLORATION ARTIFACT TO EVER BE OFFERED -A TRUE FIRST OF FIRSTS; AN ITEM USED TO PROTECT THE FIRST LUNAR SAMPLE, COLLECTED BY THE FIRST MAN ON THE MOON, DURING THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. ALL OTHER NON-EXPENDABLE ITEMS FROM THE APOLLO 11 MISSION ARE HOUSED IN THE US NATIONAL COLLECTION AT THE SMITHSONIAN - NO OTHER NON-EXPENDABLE OBJECT FROM THAT MISSION HAS EVER BEEN SOLD, UNDERLINING THE RARITY OF THIS OBJECT. ALL OTHER MAJOR SPACE EXPLORATION ARTIFACTS THAT HAVE SOLD HAVE BEEN EITHER RUSSIAN, OR FROM LATER US MISSIONS. SOME OF THESE INCLUDE:
·The Vostok Spaceship sold in these rooms for $2,882,500 in 2011
·The Excalibur Almaz Space Capsule for $1,300,000 in 2014 (Lempertz)
·The Bulova worn by CDR Scott on Apollo 15 for $1,625,000 in 2014 (RR)
·The rotational hand-controller used by CDR Scott on Apollo 15 for $610,064 in 2014 (RR)
·The emblems from LMP Irwin's spacesuit, worn on Apollo 15, for $358,000 in 1996 (Chrsitie's)
THIS BAG HOWEVER, IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST AN ARTIFACT OF SPACE EXPLORATION — IT IS AN ARTIFACT FROM HUMANITY'S GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT, AND THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF ITS KIND THAT IS AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE OWNERSHIP. WHEN LOOKING AT IT IN THE BROADER CONTEXT OF UNIQUE ITEMS THAT HAD NEVER BEFORE BEEN OFFERED AT PUBLIC AUCTION, SIMILAR ITEMS INCLUDE:
·The Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton known as "Sue,"sold in these rooms for $8,360,000 in 1997
· The 1933 Double Eagle Gold Coin, sold in these rooms for $7,590,000 in 2002
Related lots: 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103