[ Update: The Moon rocks sold near the top of the expected range of bids: Soviet robot-retrieved moon rocks sell for $855,000 at Sotheby’s | collectSPACE

Sotheby’s on Thursday (Nov. 29) auctioned the only known pieces of Earth’s natural satellite to be collected from the lunar surface and be legally sold for $855,000. The three tiny pebbles were among a small cache of moon material that was brought back by the former Soviet Union’s Luna 16 robotic probe in 1970.

The same moon rocks — which were originally presented to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the “Chief Designer” of the Soviet space program — were sold by Sotheby’s in December 1993 for $442,500. With inflation, Thursday’s sale in New York City reflected an increase of about $87,500.

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Sotheby’s is holding a Space Exploration auction in New York today. The space collectibles and memorabilia items on sale include actual material obtained from the Moon’s surface:

The top lot in the sale was originally sold in the 1993 Russian Space History Sale here at Sotheby’s – a sample of lunar rocks returned to Earth by the Russian Luna-16 unmanned mission. It was the first time a piece of another world had ever been offered for sale to the public. It remains to this day, the only known legal sale of moon rocks to have ever occurred. We look forward to once again offering this tremendously rare and historic artifact to the public.  

“Three samples of lunar rock from Luna-16, the first automated sample retrieval from the moon, encased under glass within a 2 by 2 inch metal block positioned below an adjustable lens, the whole secured to a 6½ by 3½ inch metal base labeled “ЧАСТИЦЫ ГРУНТА ЛУНЫ-16” [SOIL PARTICLES FROM LUNA-16]. Central fragment consisting of basalt with feldspar crystals visible, adjoining larger fragments consisting of finely structured vesicular agglutinates, showing glass coatings caused by age-old meteorite impact.” – Sotheby’s

In addition there is

a wide variety of material from both the American & Soviet space programs — from lunar & space photography, original artwork by artists such as Chesley Bonestell and Alan Bean, flown mission artefacts and hardware, items from the personal collections of astronauts, autographed items, maps & charts, signed books, models, spacesuits, and much more, with material suited for both new and seasoned collectors.

“A complete Gemini spacesuit with helmet, gloves made for Pete Conrad, and boots made for Frank Borman, 1963-65…G-2C-4 full high altitude pressure suit, including inner pressure suit and outer cover layer, complete with GH-2C-7 helmet, GG-2C-16 gloves made to fit Pete Conrad, and GB-5C-9 boots made to fit Frank Borman, all manufactured by the David Clark Company for NASAS between 1963-1965.” – Sotheby’s

A Nice Place to Visit” – acrylic painting by Alan Bean, an Apollo astronaut who walked on the Moon and a talented artist.

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