Cockroaches Played An Unexpected Part In A Moon Dust Auction

While it is not uncommon for space memorabilia to be auctioned off, some items are stranger than others. One unique piece of space history involves cockroaches, and not in the way you might expect. In May of this year, RR Auction, a New Hampshire-based firm that specializes in space memorabilia, announced the sale of dust collected during the Apollo 11 Moon mission that had been eaten by cockroaches (via Live Science). 

Yes, an auction selling cockroach carcasses and Moon dust extracted from their stomachs was set to run this year. According to Bobby Livingston, RR Auction executive vice president, "whenever we represent something from Apollo 11 it is obviously thrilling because it is the most important mission, but when you get something like cockroaches that were fed lunar material, it just shows how diverse the Apollo program was" (via Collect Space). But just how did these cockroaches end up eating lunar dust, and what was the outcome of the auction?

Cockroaches were fed Moon dust to see if it was dangerous

During the Apollo program, and especially during Apollo 11, NASA wanted to ensure that the Moon was a safe place for us to send humans to. That is the reason the Apollo 11 astronauts were required to quarantine for 21 days after arriving back on Earth (via CNN). According to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, this was done to protect Earth from any "Moon germs" that may have been brought back with them. As scientists discovered later, the Moon was void of any life, so the astronauts were safe.

Before scientists understood that the Moon was free of any harmful germs, researchers at NASA closely studied the lunar samples brought back from Apollo 11 to test them for contaminants. According to Collect Space, Moon dust samples were fed to several animals, including mice, fish, and the infamous cockroaches. Later, entomologist Marion Brooks (later Brooks-Wallace), dissected and studied the cockroaches to understand if they may have been infected by something from the Moon. (via Live Science). Nothing unusual was found, and the program carried on with several more Moon missions. 

NASA lawyers halted the sale of the cockroaches and Moon dust

Unfortunately for anyone looking to procure a sample of Moon dust once eaten by cockroaches, the auction didn't end as intended. According to ABC News, a lawyer for NASA sent a letter to RR Auction requesting that the sale of the Moon dust sample and cockroaches be stopped. The letter stated that "NASA asserts legal ownership of the materials consisting of the Apollo 11 lunar dust experiment" (via

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for RR Auction put out a statement about the request. "NASA has a long history of not keeping proper track and control over its historic space items...It wasn't a surprise that we ultimately heard from [them]" (via The New York Times). It is unclear who the seller of the cockroaches is, as the auction house is keeping their name private. Marion Brooks kept the specimens until her death in 2007. According to Collect Space, the cockroaches and vial with Moon dust sold in 2010 for $10,000. Where they ended up from that point had been a mystery until RR Auction announced their listing in May of this year.