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You Can Bid for Dead Cockroaches and Their Digested Apollo 11 Moon Dust

An auction offers up an unusual collection.

apolloroaches1
These desiccated cockroaches were fed Apollo 11 moon dust decades ago.
RR Auction

NASA's Apollo moon missions helped to answer a lot of questions about our lunar neighbor, including the one on everyone's mind: "Will moon dust harm cockroaches?" 

Researchers fed moon material collected during the Apollo 11 mission to German cockroaches to see what would happen. (The answer apparently was nothing.)

Those cockroach carcasses and the digested lunar soil are now up for sale.

The insect bits are part of RR Auction's aptly named Remarkable Rarities auction, which closes on June 23. You can get your bid in online. As of Wednesday, the price was sitting at $12,100 (£9,670, AU$16,850). Other items in the auction include an Enigma machine and a Martian meteorite.

The display case contains supporting materials, the three roaches, a slide and remnants of the lunar sample recovered from the tests (seen as a dark smudge). The rest of the sample is in a separate vial.

RR Auction

The auction lot features three preserved roaches, microscope slides and a broken vial that contained material extracted from the bugs after they ate the dust. The material was then recollected into intact vials, but a dark smudge remains on the backing of the display housing the samples. 

The moon dust connection is notable, but it's even more desirable because it comes from the famous 1969 Apollo 11 mission when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon for the first time in human history.

The samples came from the collection of entomologist Marion Brooks, who worked on the moon-dust project. A 1970 article published in the journal Minnesota Science discussed the findings. The cockroach experiment involved feeding or exposing sterilized and unsterilized moon dust to different groups of the insects. A control group remained unexposed.

Scientists conducted similar experiments on fish, shrimp, house flies and oysters.

"None of the animals that died during the Apollo 11 tests suffered any harm from the lunar dust," the journal said. Brooks examined the cockroach remains and "found no disease nor anything that looked faintly suspicious." 

Brooks was actually surprised to find the dust didn't damage the bugs' stomach cells or cause abrasion or scratches on their bodies. (In other words, cockroaches will outlive us all.)

The moon samples represented in the auction have been through a lot. 

"Taken from the bellies of Blattella germanica individuals, this material has been transformed from moon dust to cockroach chyme -- a one-of-a-kind rarity in the space marketplace," RR Auction said. Chyme is what you get when cockroaches digest food. 

If you're looking to own a conversation piece, it's hard to beat: "Would you like to see my roaches?"