From Lunar Dust to Space Cockroaches: The Strange Auction Histories of Artifacts from the Moon’s Surface

   At present, there are only three countries in the world that sample and return extraterrestrial celestial bodies, and they all sample from the moon. gram). Strictly speaking, these costly collected samples are not allowed to be circulated to the market, but on May 26, 2022, the “Apollo 11 Experimental Lunar Soil” listed on the official website of the RR Auction House in the United States weighed about 40 mg, and the estimated price 1 gram for 10 million dollars.
  It is unimaginable that a bag of remaining moon dust was auctioned at a price of 1.8 million US dollars in 2017, and then in 2022, five moon dust collected by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in the bag The lunar soil stub was sold for US$504,300. What’s even more incredible is that even the corpse of a cockroach that had eaten moon dust was sold for a “sky-high price” of 400,000 US dollars (1 US dollar is about 6.8 yuan)! So how did “lunar soil” and “space cockroach” appear in the auction market?
  Unique, bizarre bag auctioned at a high price On
   July 21, 1969, American Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. One of the missions of Apollo 11 was to bring more than 21.3 kilograms of lunar soil back to the earth, and part of it Feed the regolith to insects, fish and other small creatures to see if the regolith kills them.
   There is no atmosphere and no magnetic field on the moon. The stream of high-energy particles from the sun can come to the surface of the moon without any effort. While “weathering” the rocks and dust on the surface of the moon, the fine dust will also be charged with static electricity. . The moment an astronaut steps onto the lunar surface, some dust will cling to the astronaut’s gloves, rope, boots, and other tools.
   Observed through a microscope, the edges of the dust attached to the astronauts or tools are not round and regular, but jagged and highly corrosive, and can be easily sucked into the astronauts’ trachea and lungs, causing damage to the body. It can also wear down astronauts, jam equipment, or interfere with instruments. Therefore, after the mission, the astronauts would beat their clothes and boots hard on the ladder before entering the lunar module to try to prevent moon dust from entering the lunar module.
   When Armstrong collected the first piece of lunar soil, the container that contained the lunar soil was a Teflon bag. The outside of this bag absorbed some fine lunar dust particles because of static electricity. At the time, this went unnoticed by Armstrong, and the bag was then stored in a zip-top bag with the return of the first astronauts to the moon.
   After the Apollo 11 mission, the sample was loaned to a space museum in Kansas for display. Among them is the Teflon bag that Armstrong had used.
   However, I don’t know when the bag disappeared mysteriously. After investigation, it turned out that Max Ary, director of the Cosmos and Space Center at the Kansas Space Museum at the time, had been quietly selling museum artifacts and some of his personal collections for a long time, and the proceeds from the sale All in the bag.
   In 2005, Max Ayi was convicted of stealing and selling artifacts belonging to museums and NASA, was sentenced to 3 years in prison, and fined $130,000, and the sample was subsequently confiscated by the US Marshals Service.
   In 2015, the U.S. Marshals Service sold the sample in a stolen goods auction, and Illinois attorney and geology enthusiast Nancy Lee Carlson bought it for $995. It and several other space artifacts.
   In order to verify the authenticity of the bag, Nancy sent the sample to NASA to verify its source. NASA confirmed that the sample was real. The composition and characteristics of the soil matched exactly, and then NASA confiscated the bag and refused to return it to the resident.
   The resident was very angry and sued NASA to the federal court, which turned out to be successful. Later, the resident auctioned the bag again in 2017, and the transaction price was as high as 1.8 million US dollars.
   However, the matter did not end there. In 2020, the resident sued NASA to the court again, on the grounds that NASA damaged the packaging bag during the inspection last time, and used a piece of carbon tape to capture some embedded moon dust. , the dust was mounted on small aluminum columns for analysis, and then samples were retained for testing.
   In the end, NASA reached a settlement with the resident, returning five of the six “stubs” and lunar dust. The resident then held a special auction in the United States for five aluminum sample stubs with a layer of carbon ribbon and a small amount of moon dust attached to them. The last anonymous buyer paid $504,300 to become the private holder of the items.
   Some people believe that these auctioned samples are only a very small part of the lunar soil brought back during the Apollo missions, and this part of the lunar soil that is scattered among the people will not cause a major loss to the overall research. Others believe that each piece of lunar soil brought back is unique, and each part can generate more geological and historical information about the moon. And no matter which point of view it is, it shows that the lunar soil is extremely precious!
  If the lunar dust in the bag is valuable because it passed through Armstrong’s hands, then who would have thought that the corpse of the little cockroach that ate the lunar dust was also worth a lot, and it was sold at a “sky-high price” of 400,000 US dollars. “!”
  If there are few stars in the morning, the corpses of cockroaches are rising. On
   June 23, 2022, there was a special auction in the United States. The corpses of 3 cockroaches were actually auctioned at the auction. What is even more incredible is that the value of these cockroach corpses is as high as 400,000 US dollars.
   It turned out that the corpses of these cockroaches were not ordinary cockroaches, because in the bodies of these cockroaches, there was dust taken by the Americans from the moon!
   But why does the cockroach have lunar soil in its body, and what happened? As we all know, Armstrong was the first person ever to walk on the moon, not to mention, the corpse of this cockroach is also inseparable from him.
   Back then, after Armstrong brought back lunar soil from the moon, NASA began to actively study whether these lunar soils would harm life on Earth. After the samples used for biochemical reactions were isolated in the vacuum laboratory, they were decomposed into the finest particles, and some creatures on the earth were also put in to detect the particles on the earth. Whether life can adapt to the lunar soil.
   As the main experimental samples, these three cockroaches were auctioned! During the experiment, these cockroaches swallowed a small piece of lunar soil, and then took out a small part of it, leaving the remaining small part in the body of the cockroach.

   The cockroach that was fed the moon dust was taken to the University of Minnesota, where entomologist Marion Brooks was in charge of studying it, where she dissected the cockroach and conducted research.
   Professor Marion, who died in 2007, told the media in an October 1969 report that she had found no evidence of an infectious agent. Her research paper said she found no evidence that lunar material was toxic, nor did lunar regolith cause any other adverse effects on insects.
   Marion did further research, and she found that cockroaches usually have transparent shells when they are born, and then the shell color gradually darkens, but this batch of space cockroaches is much darker than ordinary cockroaches. Marion made further observations and found that these cockroaches were more robust, growing and moving faster than ordinary cockroaches. The weightless environment of space and the cosmic background radiation can potentially change the shape of living things, including modifying the DNA structure. Marion believes that it is these elements that have changed the cockroach.
   After Marion’s death, the regolith and cockroaches were not sent to NASA, but were put on display in her home. Her daughter sold the material in 2010. Now, they have been auctioned anonymously by the auction house again, and it is estimated that they can sell for a high price of 400,000 US dollars!
   These 3 cockroaches that once ate lunar soil are now auctioned for $400,000! Only then did NASA realize that it had lost its experimental supplies. But it was not until one month after the auction, in July 2022, that they sent an official email to the auction house, saying that the auction of three cockroaches and lunar soil was illegal, and its sovereignty should belong to NASA.
   NASA stated in a letter to the auction house: “Under the regulations of this program, all Apollo samples belong to NASA, and no person, university or other entity is licensed to retain them after analysis, destruction or use for any purpose. , especially for sale or personal display.” NASA said: “We request that the bidding process to facilitate the sale of any and all items containing Apollo 11 lunar soil experiments cease immediately.”
   But Mark Zaid, a lawyer for RR Auctions, said it’s not uncommon for third parties to make claims over items that are being auctioned. He said: “We have cooperated with NASA before, and we hope to take appropriate and legal actions.”
   In the end, the auction was called off, and although NASA stopped the loss in time, it still could not make up for their efforts to preserve space objects. serious flaws. In fact, before the cockroaches, NASA lost the bag that Armstrong used to collect samples of lunar soil. Later, the prototype of the lunar rover was also found wandering outside, and was sold by a waste factory owner for a mysterious price.
   In any case, according to Professor Marion’s report, the extraterrestrial material brought back from the moon did not cause any adverse effects on the animals and astronauts exposed, and the cockroaches did not show any signs of harm from eating lunar soil.
   In fact, when the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth, whether it was the spacecraft they took, the items they brought back to Earth, or themselves, they were actually quarantined alone for 21 days. In addition, NASA has also exposed a group of invertebrates such as fish, mice, and cockroaches to an environment with moon dust and rocks, and then observed whether they would have any abnormalities.
  Scientists have sent many animals into space, including cats, dogs, turtles, jellyfish, orangutans and fruit flies. So, can they survive in space?
  As the stars move, space animals come and go
   On April 11, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Gagarin boarded the Vostok 1 spacecraft and became the first person to enter space.
   However, before that, a dog made an important foreshadowing for humans to go to space! Russia once sent a 3-year-old puppy into space, but it was not as lucky as the three cockroaches brought by Armstrong, and was able to return to the earth with lunar soil. For more than 60 years, this dog is still wandering in orbit above the earth and has never returned to the ground. So, what’s going on here?
   Before Gagarin’s successful flight, human beings did not know the environment of space, so many animals were treated as experiments and sacrifices to contribute to human’s space dream. Rodents, geckos, gerbils and snails were the first terrestrial animals to be sent into space, but before reaching orbit, they were all killed by environmental changes due to immature technology. That didn’t change until a 3-year-old stray dog ​​was sent into space.
   This dog is called Leica. Before being regarded as an “astronaut”, it was a puppy less than 3 years old on the street. After being discovered by the space agency, nine other stray dogs participated in the training together.
   They only do one thing every day, receive training from animal trainers, and then participate in selection. The content of the training is to obey the commander’s arrangement and press the relevant buttons according to the instructions. Of course, the level of training is not only difficult, but you will be punished if you are not careful.
   Once, Leica was shocked by electric shock because he did not follow the command of the commander in time. Fortunately, hard work paid off. After half a year of repeated practice, Leica stood out from the crowd and finally became the selected “astronaut”.
   On October 4, 1957, the first artificial satellite in human history was successfully launched by Russia. A month later, the second satellite was about to launch, but this time the situation was different, and a passenger was also loaded on it – a Leica.
   In order to better grasp the vital signs of Leica and understand the changes in its biological mechanism during its ascent, scientists installed the most advanced sensors in the world at that time, and kept an eye on its breathing, blood pressure and heartbeat.
   Although the information dissemination at that time was not as powerful as it is today, and the method was quite different, but in the Russian spacecraft, the signal transmitted from it could also be received by the earth.
   At 10:28 am on November 3, the spacecraft on which Leica was sitting slowly lifted off. In the monitoring room on the ground, Leica’s heartbeat and blood pressure are continuously transmitted electronically.
   Although it was arranged in a specially made pressurized capsule, as the data fluctuated, scientists clearly observed that its blood pressure became higher and its heart rate increased as the altitude increased. In addition to the capsule, scientists also installed a camera to keep an eye on the shape of Leica during the flight to identify various unknown situations.
   Leica is just an animal that cannot express human emotions, but during the flight, through the observation of the camera and the information conveyed by the sensor, the scientists also clearly felt that Leica was afraid.
   Sadly, after a few hours in the air, Leica died amidst the changes and fear of the environment. However, it left a record of several hours in space, which greatly promoted the improvement of the spacecraft when Gagarin went into space.
   However, today, more than 60 years have passed, and because there is no spaceship recovery technology, Leica is still flying around the earth in space according to the previously set trajectory.
   Despite this, people still regard it as a hero of mankind. In the United States, in order to commemorate the contribution made by Leica, a newspaper directly named the spacecraft it was riding on as “Leica Satellite”.

   In 1997, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Leica’s death, Russia specially set up a memorial hall in the place where it was trained at that time, and opened it to the public for people from Russia and the world to observe.
   The successful launch of Leica proves one thing, that is, mammals on earth can enter space smoothly with the help of spacecraft. Whether it was Gagarin’s successful ascension into space or Armstrong’s landing on the moon, they all depended on the successful experience and relevant facts that needed to be proven when Leica was sent into space.
   Not all animals sent into space make it back to Earth safely. The first animals to be sent into space were a group of fruit flies, because they share a lot of DNA with humans. Thankfully, when these fruit flies returned to Earth, they were all healthy and barely affected by radiation.
   Back in 1949, a rhesus macaque named Albert II made monkey history by taking human exploration one step further into space. After the rocket was launched, it was taken to an altitude of 134 kilometers, but unfortunately, it was hit and killed due to the failure of the parachute during the return process. Its predecessor, “Albert I”, also died on the spot before reaching the highest altitude due to a mechanical failure in the V-2 rocket he was riding on.
   In the early 1950s, rats were often used as test subjects for early launches, especially in 1950, when a rat was sent to an altitude of 137 kilometers. Like many experimental animals before it, this rat was also due to rocket The parachute failed to open during landing and died.
   Until 1959, a rhesus monkey named Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker made animal history. The two “astronauts” made it into orbit and, unlike many other experimental animals, returned to Earth unharmed.
   They are capable of withstanding a gravitational pull several times that of Earth’s and are able to last nine minutes in weightlessness.
   Animals haven’t been in the headlines since humans successfully landed on the moon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t regular visitors to space. In 1970, Arabella and Anita garden spiders became the first pair of spiders to spin webs in space, spending 59 days in NASA’s space lab.
   And in 2007, the tardigrade with “superpowers” made history! Be the first known animal to survive in outer space! On September 14, 2007, Russia’s “Photon-M3” scientific research satellite was successfully launched from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.
   The scientific research satellite carried many animals, including the pupae of animals such as gerbils, geckos, snails and butterflies, and also carried this super-vigorous animal – tardigrade. Tardigrades have a “unique skill” of “hidden life”. When they are in an extreme environment, they will enter a hidden state, and in this state, the metabolic rate of tardigrades will be reduced to the normal 0.01 %. The body of the tardigrade will gradually curl up, and the water in the body will gradually transform into a special protein, eventually becoming a “little pupa”.
   They were exposed in space, and miraculously survived without any influence under the conditions of lack of oxygen, massive radiation, extremely low temperature and lack of water! After 10 days, when they returned to Earth and rehydrated, they were back to normal as if nothing had happened.
   Along the way, scientists and animals are working hard. Various animals come and go in space, making the lunar soil closer and closer to us. The preciousness of the lunar soil is not only because they come from celestial bodies other than the earth, but also because they are the best witnesses of human exploration of the moon.

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