Scroll down to read this post.


My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

NASA halts sale of Apollo 11 Moon dust, claiming ownership

We’re here to help you: The auction of a tiny amount of Moon dust brought back by Apollo 11 and used in a post-flight experiment using German cockroaches has been canceled because NASA claimed ownership of that dust and demanded its return.

“NASA asserts legal ownership of the materials consisting of the Apollo 11 lunar dust experiment … based upon the information and documentation provided in the description of the lot and evidence regarding NASA’s contemporaneous contracting practices,” an attorney in NASA’s Office of the General Counsel wrote RR Auction in a letter on Wednesday, a week after first reaching out to the firm. “It is clear and undeniable that the materials consisting of the experiment are owned by NASA.”

The lot under contention comprises what remains from the late Marion Brooks’ research into the physiological effects of lunar material on Blattellas germanica, or German cockroaches. The insects had been fed moon dust by NASA scientists in the immediate aftermath of the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. After no ill-effects were seen while astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were held in quarantine, the (now dead) cockroaches were handed off to Brooks, an entomologist from the University of St. Paul, for more thorough study.

Included in the auction was a small vial of moon dust that Brooks’ had carefully extracted from the cockroaches’ corpses, as well as three of the remaining (dead) cockroaches and two boxes of tissue slides for microscopic study.

It appears the dust had been in the Brooks family possession for more than forty years, then sold by them at auction in 2010 for $10,000. Under standard adverse possession law, you lose ownership if you don’t claim that right after twenty years. It would thus seem that NASA’s claim is bogus.

But then, NASA as a government agency doesn’t believe the standard laws apply to it. It continues to demand that all Apollo lunar material belongs to it and be returned, no matter what the circumstances it was originally handed out by the agency and no matter how long ago.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Matt in AZ

    For crying out loud, it’s as if they expect to never to go back to moon and get more.

  • Lee S

    There must be an excellent business case for a private lunar sample return mission. A few kilos of regolith would surely bring in enough to cover the cost of the mission.

  • GaryMike

    The intrinsic value of “the first, ever” is normally far greater than the value of the commonly acquired.

    What disappoints me most is that the damn cockroaches are harder to kill than we hope.

  • wayne

    –*somewhat similar* thing has happened before.
    In (very)brief: 400K Gold $20 coins (double eagles) were minted in 1933, then FDR outlawed public gold ownership and the 400K specimens were melted down, 2 specimens were given to the US Mint collection and 1 specimen was lawfully exported to the king of Egypt. After the King’s death, his coin collection was dispersed. The 1933 specimen appeared many years later and the Feds seized it, claiming it was stolen property–lengthy trial ensued and it was eventually legally monetized and auctioned off with the Feds taking 50% of the take.
    The Story of the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Gold Double Eagle ($20) Coin

  • The Docent

    Under the common law, adverse possession does not apply to governments. The right facts might give rise to a waiver or estoppel. A good article on the sale of lunar rocks and dust is this one:

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *