Lunar landing dust pickled by roaches could be yours for as little as £320,000


The early estimate for dust, roaches and memorabilia is $400,000 (£322,400) (Image: Reuters).

Cockroach carcasses and the Apollo 11 moondust extracted from their stomachs are now up for auction.

The lunar dust was reportedly brought back to Earth in 1969 by the Apollo 11 astronauts. The unusual items for sale are the result of a Nasa biological survey in search of unsafe “moon bugs”.

The unique items are set to be auctioned in Boston as part of a collection featuring items from kings, presidents and the moon.

The early estimate for dust, roaches and memorabilia is $400,000 (£322,400).

The auction will be handled by RR Auction, an American company specializing in space memorabilia. The moondust eaten by roaches is among the highlights of the Notable Rarities auction, which opened for bids on May 26 and runs through June 23.

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“What excites me the most is this Apollo 11 science experiment where cockroaches were fed Apollo 11 lunar material,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive Vice President of RR Auction.

“This is the material, the lunar material, that was digested by the cockroaches during the destructive test. This moon dust was eaten by cockroaches. And these are the remains of it,’ he added.

Autographs from Babe Ruth and King Henry VIII are also part of the collection. Other highlights of the 50-item auction include a 1943 German Enigma machine estimated at $275,000 and a dollar bill signed by Elon Musk, priced at $5,000.

Where did the cockroaches come from?

Ahead of the first human mission to the moon, scientists weren’t quite sure if the astronauts would bring back germs, or “moon bugs,” that could harm life on Earth.

Thus, the crew of Apollo 11 and everything returning with them were quarantined for 21 days after their return to Earth.

At the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, a special facility Nasa built to isolate the lunar people and material from the outside world, the astronauts underwent medical examinations while several invertebrate creatures – from fish to mice to cockroaches – examined lunar rock and dust were exposed to see how they would react.

Around 22 kilograms of lunar rock brought back from the Apollo 11 mission were provided for these tests.

While none of the animals or astronauts showed any signs of adverse exposure to the lunar rocks, the space agency hired Marion Brooks, an entomologist from the University of St. Paul, to study the roaches exposed to the lunar dust.

Working with the group of roaches fed a “half and half” diet of raw lunar dust and regular food, Brooks found no evidence that the lunar soil was toxic or dangerous to them.

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Justin Scacco

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