British auction house Christie’s is known for making some pretty astronomical sales, but their latest artifact is pretty reasonably-priced, considering how out-of-this-world it is.
On April 30th, Christie’s announced it would be privately selling the fifth-largest chunk of the moon ever found on Earth. It was priced at a reasonable $2.5 million.
“I’ve been lucky enough to handle a few lunar meteorites at Christie’s over the years,” wrote James Hyslop, Christie’s Head of Science & Natural History, in a press release. “But every time I see this specimen in the warehouse, the sheer size of it bowls me over. Weighing over 13.5kg, it is so much larger than anything else that has ever been offered before.”
Hylsop described the feeling of “holding a piece of another world in your hands” as an inimitable experience. “It is really an incredible opportunity to acquire a world-class specimen from the Moon,” he said of the sale.
The unique specimen does not come from the 842 pounds of moon rocks that NASA astronauts brought back during their six Apollo missions. All of that lunar matter is the property of the US government, secured at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Rather, the moon rock sold by Christie’s, which is technically called NWA 12691, is one of 30 lunar meteorites that landed on Earth thousands of years ago after a comet or asteroid collided with the moon, breaking large chunks off its surface.
NWA 12691 is larger than any single piece of the moon that NASA astronauts hauled back from space, and was discovered by an anonymous researcher in West Africa in 2018. Dr. Lawrence Stifler, a private collector who owns at least five other lunar specimens, purchased the rock after officials confirmed it came from the moon. Among his cosmic collection are at least five other lunar chunks, including the largest privately-owned moon rock on earth, which weighs an astonishing 128 pounds.