Sotheby’s will auction three tiny moon rocks that were collected by a Soviet space mission in 1970.
The auction house will sell the rare lunar fragments this November and the objects are expected to sell for up to $1 million.
The auction offers a rare chance for those who want to own a piece of the moon as Sotheby’s said that the fragments are the only known and documented lunar rocks that were made available for private ownership.
The two largest of the pieces measure two by two millimeters, which is about as thick as the side of a nickel coin. The smallest piece measures one by one millimeter, which is smaller than some grains of sand.
The rocks were retrieved and brought to Earth by the unmanned Luna-16 Mission in 1970. They were first sold in 1993 by the widow of former Soviet space program director Sergei Pavlovich Korolev.
The Luna-16 probe drilled a hole in the moon’s surface to retrieve the fragments. The Luna-16 mission was the first time that the Soviet Union obtained samples from the moon and it was the third time ever after the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions of the United States.
The USSR later gave the rocks to Korolev Nina Ivanovna Koroleva to recognize her husband’s contribution to the space program of the country.
In 1993, Sotheby’s sold the rocks for $442,50 after Koroleva put them up for auction. The rocks have been in the hands of an American for more than two decades. The unnamed collector has now decided to put them up for sale.
“The only known documented pieces of the moon in private hands are returning to the auction block on 29 November in New York’s Space Exploration sale,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
“The three lunar samples, which were brought to Earth in 1970 by the Soviet Luna-16 Mission, were previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1993, marking the first time that a piece of another world had ever been offered for sale to the public.”
Sotheby’s said that the lunar samples are encased under glass below an adjustable lens.
The lunar fragments may seem too small for the amount they are estimated to fetch but objects from the moon tend to be popular.
Last year, Sotheby’s also sold a bag used by Neil Armstrong to collect samples during the historic Apollo 11 moon mission. The bag, which was bought for only $995 two years before and had been a subject of a lawsuit, sold for $1.8 million.