The auction is scheduled for July 20, the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission's historic first moon landing, in New York City.
In 1969, United States space agency NASA launched the first manned lunar mission - Apollo 11 and along with the astronauts, sent a simple, square white bag meant to carry the first sample of lunar material ever collected, which it did. That bag could fetch up to $4 million when it goes on the auction block at Sotheby's NY in July. The bag was used to hold rocks and dust from the lunar region known as the Sea of Tranquility.
This is the first time that such an object is auctioned by Apollo 11, said Jim Hall, head of NASA's exhibits and artifacts. While there are legal restrictions on sales of samples taken from moon missions, such as lunar rocks and soils, it is believed that some have been sold on the black market.
The bag wound up at Sotheby's after a roundabout journey that included an attempt by NASA to get it back from its current owner. As part of the mission, the astronauts gathered lunar samples. They landed on July 24 and received a hero's welcome.
At one point, the bag was seized by the US Department of Justice during an investigation and then mistakenly auctioned off to its current owner, Chicago-area attorney Nancy Lee Carlson.
Lunar rock and earth property and motifs from moon missions are generally forbidden, Hal said, and once the bag origin was identified and found to contain lunar dust remnants, Space Agency tried to keep it. But in February a district court judge ordered her return to Carlson.
Sotheby expects the artefact to fetch between $2 million and $4 million, according to an emailed statement.
A bag used by Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission is expected to fetch millions at an auction in NY. Sotheby's said Carlson plans to donate part of the money for the sale for charity and to establish a scholarship scheme at the university he attended, Northern Michigan University.