Space dust collected by Apollo 11 crew, fed to cockroaches expected to attract US$400,000 in auction

Some of the ingested moon-dust up for auction
Three of the dead insects are included as part of the auction lot. Photo credit: Supplied / RR Auction

Kiwi space fans looking for a piece of history can now bid on a sample of moondust taken by the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 - but it's not for the squeamish.

As part of an experiment, the moondust was fed to cockroaches and then extracted from their stomachs, with three of the expired beasts also offered as part of the auction.

According to the listing, the "extraordinary specimen display" comes from an experiment in which the German roaches were fed lunar soil material to observe potential pathological effects. 

As well as the preserved cockroaches and digested moon dust, there are two cases of microscope slides prepared from the creepy crawlies that ate moon rock.

The samples initially came from the collection of Dr Marion Brooks, an entomologist from the University of St Paul who was contracted by NASA to perform the experiment.

"A letter of provenance from her daughter, as well as photocopies of documentation demonstrating her affiliation with NASA and contemporary reportage on her interesting work" are also included in the auction package.

According to the listing, the Apollo 11 astronauts, including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, returned to Earth with 21.5kg of moon rock.

Just over 2kg was ground up into small particles to be used to study its impact on microscopic organisms, insects and water-based life.

During Brooks' examination of the roaches she found no evidence of disease or pathogens and was "surprised to observe" that the lunar dust had caused no issues with the stomach cells of the insects.

The findings were discussed in the journal Science, in an article entitled: 'Apollo 11: Exposure of Lower Animals to Lunar Material'.

One of the reasons the moon rock is rare is because NASA "keeps famously close guard" over material returned from the moon during the Apollo missions, according to the listing.

That makes it "virtually impossible" to obtain.

The 'Remarkable Rarities' auction, from RR Auction runs to June 24, US time, and New Zealanders looking for a (disgusting) piece of history will have to bid at least US$12,100 (NZ$18,500) for the lot.

However, that's unlikely where they will need to stop. The auction house predicts the rare spacedust will sell for over US$400,000 (NZ$614,000).

Other lots in the 'Remarkable Rarities' auction include a document signed by King Henry VIII of Britain, an original World War II Enigma machine and an Apple-1 computer hand-numbered by Steve Jobs, valued at over US$450,000 (NZ$691,000).