Buyer Can Keep Mistakenly Sold Apollo 11 Artifact

A federal judge has ruled that a bag used to collect lunar samples during the first manned mission to the moon legally belongs to an Illinois woman who bought it for $995 when it was mistakenly sold during a government auction.

Judge J. Thomas Marten, of the U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, says in his ruling Wednesday that he doesn’t have the authority to reverse the sale of the bag used during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

The white bag has lunar material embedded in its fabric, and the government considers it “a rare artifact, if not a national treasure.” NASA was not informed of its sale.

It was recovered in 2003 during a criminal investigation against a Kansas space museum director but was misidentified. Nancy Carlson, of Inverness, Illinois, bought last year knowing only that it had been used during a space flight, but not which one.