The Johnson Space Center, previous owner of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar bag, was ordered by a federal judge on Friday to return the moon collection bag together with the dusty specimens left inside from the historic 1969 moon landing to the woman who won the bidding. A rare find, the bag and its content are deemed a “national treasure” by a NASA lawyer. It was accidentally sold to the highest bidder back in 2015 in an inventory mix-up.
Joseph Gutheinz, a former NASA enforcement officer and moon rock hunter who supported the buyer's effort to gain rightful ownership to the item, explains that the bag is unique, with an incalculable value. U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore in Houston rules in favor of Carlson, the buyer from Illinois. Carlson has bought the moon rock bag at a government auction for $995 in 2015.
According to the Web Top News, the government may have mistakenly put NASA's Apollo 11 bag up for sale, but some people say that the government lawyers have also committed a big mistake by not appealing another judge’s ruling on ownership. Considered as a unique space treasure, the bag is set to be covertly returned Monday to Carlson. The bag, about the size of a round dinner plate, have previously turned up in the home of a space museum director in Kansas decades after the moon mission.
Federal agents seized the bag in an unrelated criminal case, and was left in the care of the US Marshal's office. According to the Collect Space, it was put up for auction in 2014 with a suggested opening bid of $20,000, and nobody bid on it. In 2015, the “flown zippered lunar sample return bag with lunar dust. 11.5 [inches]. Tear at Center. Flown Mission Unknown,” was up again for auction where Carlson bid the highest.