Here are four things you could do with your precious $1 million bag of lunar dust
The moon is pretty hot right now – or maybe (more likely) it never fell out of fashion in the first place. Either way, the special place in our hearts for Earth’s only natural satellite seems particularly prevalent at the moment, inspiring everything from Richard Linklater’s new Netflix film to Jeff Koons’ debut NFT project, which includes sculptures set to touch down on the moon in July (potentially pipping spacebound artworks by Sacha Jafri at the post).
How can you capitalise on this moon craze, though? Well, if you’ve got about $1 million to spare, you could buy a small part of the space rock for yourself. Next month, a sample of moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission – dubbed “the only Apollo sample that can be legally sold” – will go up for auction in New York.
Estimated to fetch between $800,000 and $1,200,000, the first lunar sample collected by humanity will feature as part of Bonhams’ Space History auction, scheduled to take place on April 13. The dust itself comes from a decontamination bag that returned to Earth with the pioneering astronauts, and comes with its own controversial history.
After the Apollo crew returned to Earth in 1969, NASA somehow misplaced the bag of lunar samples (oops lol), and for many years it remained missing. In 2002, though, it cropped up in the possession of Max Ary, then the director of the Cosmosphere space museum in Kansas. As it turned out, Ary had a habit of auctioning off artefacts that NASA had loaned the museum, which caught up with him in 2005. The space dust was seized by the US Marshals Service alongside hundreds of other space artefacts, then sold in an online auction.
Suspecting that the moon dust was worth much more than it was listed for, geology enthusiast Nancy Lee Carlson paid $995 for a joint lot, and in 2015 sent the sample off to NASA for verification. The space agency then decided that it belonged to the government and intended to keep it, but after multiple lawsuits Carlson got the space dust back in two portions. The latter is the sample going to Bonhams in April.
For Carlson, the auction will presumably come as a happy ending to the convoluted ownership dispute. But what is the person spending up to $1.2 million on the space dust actually going to do with it? Below, we’ve provided some options.
… SNORT IT?
Look, we’re not saying you should sniff moon dust. In all likelihood, it’s very bad for you – a 2018 study of Apollo specimens found that they contain minerals that react with human cells to produce toxic chemicals, previously linked to lung cancer. The original Apollo 11 astronauts also gave us some idea about the effects of moon dust when ingested by the human body, reporting that the fine dust they kicked up smelled like burnt gunpowder, and in some cases produced hayfever-like symptoms. Nevertheless, do you think you could stop yourself, given the chance to discover a new, cosmic high?
TEST IT FOR THE GAY GENE
It’s a commonly-accepted fact that the moon is a gay icon. Given its simultaneous status as a feminine symbol and links to the Roman goddess Diana (a “maiden goddess” who never married a man, for the record), it naturally follows that the moon is a lesbian. Maybe moon dust could help put the debate to bed for good. Admittedly, previous studies have shown that there’s actually no such thing as a single “gay gene”, though genetics are said to play a role alongside many other factors. Still, there’s no harm in checking, is there?
GIVE IT BACK TO NASA
Feeling particularly boring and/or charitable? You could send the $1 million moon dust right back to the people that brought it to Earth in the first place, and they would thank you for it. Back in 2017, amid one of its lawsuits with Nancy Lee Carlson, NASA declared that it was the rightful owner of the dust, and represented it falling into private hands as a terrible injustice. “This artefact, we believe, belongs to the American people and should be on display for the public,” the space agency said. “Which is where it was before all of these unfortunate events occurred.” To be fair though, they can’t have thought it was that great before a massive price tag was attached, because they were the ones who let the sample get lost in the first place. Finders keepers.
REVEL IN ITS CALMING INFLUENCE
So this suggestion comes courtesy of disgraced former president and historic Dazed hater Bill Clinton, but hear me out: maybe you could pop the space dust on your desk and just, like, look at it? Apparently, it worked for Bill, who got NASA to loan him a moon rock in 1999, when there were still “raw feelings” about his impeachment. “I put it on the table in the Oval Office and when people started the crazy stuff, I’d say, ‘Wait a minute guys. See that rock, it’s 3.6 billion years old. We’re all just passing through, take a deep breath, calm down, let’s see what makes sense,’” he told the Financial Times in 2011. “It had an incredible calming effect!”