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Dealer offers Apollo moondust for sale

February 5, 2001 — German space memorabilia dealer Spaceflori re-launched its website Sunday with the rare offer of moondust recovered during the Apollo 15 mission. The lunar samples highlight the company's new offerings, including items flown on the last manned mission to the Russian space station Mir.

"It's done!" exclaimed Florian Noller, owner of Spaceflori in an e-mail to customers and collectors. "The new [website] is up and running and we are proud to present you sensational news."

The availability of Apollo-recovered dust is newsworthy. Of the 842 pounds of lunar material returned by the six manned missions to the Moon, less than a few ounces have ever been sold legally.

The majority of the rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust collected by the Apollo astronauts has been classified as a national treasure and is protected by the U.S. Government. The exception, as the Spaceflori website notes, has been traces of lunar dust discovered on legally obtained artifacts.

A recent example was the 1999 auction of a NASA emblem and nametag coated in lunar dust. As they were intended to remain on the Moon, NASA allowed astronaut James Irwin to keep the patches he recovered as a souvenir of his flight. After his death in 1991, his widow consigned the emblems to Christie's East in New York, where they were successfully sold for over $300,000.

The Spaceflori samples also originate from the Apollo 15 mission though not from a patch but from a temporary stowage bag used by Irwin's commander, David Scott.

The 27 by 14 inch bag flew to the Moon attached to the left girth shelf next to Scott's couch in the command module Endeavour. Used to stow items for the trip from the Moon, the lining was stained with dust transferred from whatever the bag held. After its recovery, the bag was removed from the spacecraft by engineers working for North American Rockwell, as is indicated by a parts removal tag.

Noller purchased the bag unaware of the lunar remnants contained within at the October 2000 Superior Galleries space memorabilia auction. Listed as lot 809, it sold for $2,300 including a 15 percent buyer's commission.

Using tape to lift some of the 'dirt' from the bag's lining, Noller compared the particles to known samples of lunar material.

"There was no doubt that [the dust's] density, color, texture, friability, granularity, morphology and hardness resembles the known samples," wrote Noller.

Strengthening the case for Noller was the location of the stains.

"The interior of the bag has contamination in several areas, especially under the seams," continued Nolller. "An indicator that the sample material has found its way there historically, and not some recent contamination."

After being convinced of its origin, Noller began preparing similar samples to sell through his site. Limited to 50 small (1 by 1 cm) and 12 slightly larger (2.5 by 2.5 cm) editions, each sample was mounted on a white card and then "framed" by a 10 by 8 inch photograph of James Irwin saluting the flag on the Moon. Each presentation is also accompanied by Noller's statement of authenticity.

The small and large samples are offered for $995 and $2,495 respectively and are available through Spaceflori.

Also listed are various flags flown aboard Soyuz TM-30, the last manned mission to Mir before its scheduled deorbit in March 2001. The American, Russian, Florida and Texas banners mark the culmination of a Spaceflori offer to fly items to the aging space station which was announced in November 1999.

In a similar offering, Spaceflori is accepting items to be flown on a future flight to the International Space Station.

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