Space...The Final Frontier...for this blog

I find this story interesting for two reasons, One, it involves an incredible collectable. A signed letter from Neil Armstrong along with a vial of moondust. Two, it involves a proactive lawsuit, which I never understand. The last time there was one of those, I think it involved Robin Thicke (being thick) proactively suing the estate of Marvin Gaye so they couldn’t claim his song “Blurred Lines” was a rip off of “Gotta Give it Up”  (it didn’t work, as the Gaye estate did sue, and won $10 million).

A Tennessee woman recently proactively sued NASA, so that she could keep a vial  of dust from the moon that Armstrong gave her as a gift. He was supposedly a family friend, and her mother gave her the tube of lunar sand when she was 10-years-old, and it’s priceless (although I’m sure if somebody offered her a million bucks she’d take it). There’s also a signed letter, which would make this a nice set of items for some collector with a lot of cash.

A legal expert I spoke with (okay, a lawyer friend of mine I called up), said that it’s not uncommon to proactively do something like this, because it can save a lot of money if NASA came calling (or suing) when you put said item up for sale. He said it’s most common with contracts. And since NASA has seized rocks from the moon from private citizens previously. In 2011, a 74-year-old woman had trouble with lunar material she had gotten from her husband, an engineer on the Apollo 11 mission. That case is slightly different, as NASA claimed it was stolen. You might think NASA is being a bit...greedy with this philosophy but the reason lunar samples are the property of the government is because scientists research dangers of moon dust

The signature was easy to authenticate, but analyzing the “moon dust” would be a lot harder. We’ll see how this all shakes out when the woman decides to sell or auction off the item. My guess is Keith Richards will buy the vial and snort it.

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Tags: Blurred Lines, Marvine Gaye, NASA, Neil Armstrong, Robin Thicke, moon dust

Comment by Eric K. Longo on June 14, 2018 at 5:45pm

Hi Josh,


RE moon dust, perhaps the sort of techniques that have been used to establish the authenticity of the Hiroshima artifacts I deal in? Steve Zarelli would know surely. This example has been shown to contain Europium, which is the signature of the August 6th, 1945 Hiroshima event. It also contains bits of plant matter, windowsill etc. as do many of my items.

Comment by Steve Zarelli on June 20, 2018 at 3:48pm

I do not believe the vial to be moon dust. 

First, astronauts were not allowed to keep quantities of moon dust or rocks. They essentially only got the residual dust from any item they were allowed to keep, which would mean a very small amount.

Moon dust and rocks are extremely valuable. Even museums got tiny amounts.

In my opinion, even if Armstrong did have a vial of it -- extremely unlikely -- there is no way he's walking around with a vial in his pocket and handing it out at events. Even at the time, this would have been worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

If I had to speculate... "Dad" met Armstrong and got a signed business card for his young daughter. "Dad" added in a vial of some sort of dust to sweeten the story. An innocent "white lie" at the time to excite his daughter.

I can't tell you how many times I have worked with people who have told me, "I know this is real because my dad or mom met the astronauts and they signed this for me." And the item has Autopen machine signed signatures...

Comment by Josh Board on June 20, 2018 at 7:32pm

Steve, I'm so glad you chimed in on this. I thought some of those same things, but was too lazy to research all that when writing the blog. Because...yeah, let's say he, himself...had a vial of moondust. Why is he just giving it away, and not passing it down to someone in his family?

Comment by Judge Nutmeg on June 22, 2018 at 7:21am

Great story, Josh. Your posts always make for an interesting read.

Just wondering though if NASA's recent panic to claim back all things "moon" isn't down to their fear of them being independently tested, and discovering that they are infact random pieces of Nevada Desert. 

(Only half-joking by the way.)

Comment by Josh Board on June 22, 2018 at 8:43pm

That's a good one.

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