© Igor Borisenko/TASS

NEW YORK, November 30. /TASS/. Moon soil samples, brought to the earth by Soviet Union’s unmanned Luna-16 mission about half a century ago, went under hammer in New York on Thursday for $855,000, the Sotheby’s auction house said.

Three fragments, measuring between 1 and 2 mm, are encased under glass within a 2 by 2 inch metal block positioned below an adjustable magnifying lens. A Russian-language inscription reads “Luna-16 soil samples.”

Three samples – the only known documented samples of the moon available for private ownership – were originally the property of Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, widow of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the chief designer and director of the Soviet space program. The samples were presented to her as a gift on behalf of the USSR in recognition of her late husband’s incalculable contributions to the program.

They were consigned by her and sold in Sotheby’s Russian Space History sale in 1993, where they were bought by an unknown private collector for $442,500.

Among other highlights of Sotheby’s Space Exploration auction, which has already fetched more than $2.5 million, are the voice recorder that flew into space aboard the Vostok-6 spacecraft with the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (June 16-19, 1963) with 8 cassette tapes of audio from the flight; Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s letter to Russian science fiction writer Alexander Belyaev; the ‘Road to the Stars’ book by first man in space Yuri Gagarin with his autograph; Oran-M and Sokol KV-2 spacesuits and other items and works of art.

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