Official Statement: NASA wants its moon dust, cockroaches, and other planetary materials back.

The space agency asked RR Auction in Boston to stop the sale of moon dust collected on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. 

This dust had been given to a Boston-based RR auction as part of an experiment to see if any of the pathogens could be dangerous for terrestrial life.

A NASA lawyer stated in a letter that the material still belonged to the federal government.

The material from the experiment, which included a vial containing about 40 mgs of moon dust and three cockroach carcasses, which was expected to fetch at least $400,000, was pulled from the auction block by RR on Thursday.

NASA's June 15 letter stated that all Apollo samples belonged to NASA, as specified in this collection. 

Therefore, no person, university, or other entity was ever allowed to keep them after analysis or destruction.

It went on: “We are requesting that you no longer facilitate the sale of any and all items containing the Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Experiment (the cockroaches, slides, and post-destructive testing specimen) by immediately stopping the bidding process," NASA wrote.

Brooks kept the cockroaches and moon rock, but they were not returned to NASA. Instead, her daughter sold them in 2010, and they are now being offered for sale by a consignor that RR has not disclosed.

Mark Zaid, an attorney at RR Auction, stated that it is not uncommon for a third party to claim something being auctioned. Zaid stated that NASA has a track record in pursuing items related to early space programs, although they have been inconsistent.

For example, in one of its letters, NASA admitted that it didn't know about the auction of the cockroach experiment pieces.

Zaid stated, "we have previously worked with NASA and have always cooperated with the U.S. government whenever they lay claim to items."  "In the end, we want to be lawful and appropriate."

RR Auction is holding on to the lot for now, but ultimately, it's up to the consignor to work something out with NASA, he said.