The white Teflon-coated jacket worn by astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969 sold for $2.7 million at Sotheby’s on Tuesday, the highest price of a dozen rare souvenirs tracking his space career. exploration.
Mr. Aldrin, now 92, has a storied career as an astronaut, joining NASA in 1963 after flying in the Air Force. Within three years, he carried out the world’s first successful spacewalk on the Gemini 12 mission. Then, on July 20, 1969, millions of people watched on television when he became the second man to walk on the moon, about 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong, who announced it A giant leap for mankind.
The custom-fitted jacket Mr. Aldrin wore on that mission was sold out after a fierce nine-minute bidding, and the auctioneer described it as “the most valuable American artifact in space ever auctioned.” (The clothing worn by the other two Apollo 11 astronauts from that mission is owned by the Smithsonian Institution.)
In all, 68 of Mr. Aldrin’s possessions sold for $8 million Tuesday by Sotheby’s in Manhattan in an auction that lasted more than two hours.
Sotheby’s spokesman Derek Parsons said the sale of Buzz Aldrin was “the most valuable single space exploration auction ever”. It broke the record set by an auction of items for Mr. Armstrong, who died in 2012, but the other astronaut’s total collection still holds the overall record.
The most coveted artifact sold on Tuesday traveled to the moon and back more than five decades ago. An entire summary flight plan for the Apollo mission sold for $819,000.
Only one piece not sold: It included the little broken circuit switch that nearly stranded the Apollo 11 crew on the moon and a dented aluminum stylus that Mr. Aldrin used as a handy solution to achieve takeoff. Bids stopped at $650,000, well below auction estimates of $1 million.
“I felt the time was right to share these items with the world, which for many are symbols of a historical moment, but for me they have always remained personal mementos of a life dedicated to science and exploration,” Mr. Aldrin said in a statement.
Among the items sold at the auction were gold-colored lifetime tickets to major baseball games, for $7,560, and a small MTV Video Music Awards figurine modeled on the iconic image of Mr. Aldrin placing the American flag on the moon, which fetched $88,200 . .
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for civilians, awarded by Richard M. Nixon to Mr. Aldrin, sells for $277,200. Mr. Parsons said these medals do not appear frequently at auction.
There was also a letter dated December 10, 1973, penned by Mr. Armstrong, for $21,420. In it, he tried to dissuade Mr. Aldrin from turning his memoir into a movie: “I can’t think of any surviving autobiography that has been turned into a good, high-quality flick.”
Mr. Aldrin was not convinced. The autobiography aired three years later.
While this movie wasn’t a huge hit, Mr. Aldrin inspired the name Buzz Lightyear, the Pixar cartoon character from the “Toy Story” movies.
Ten of the 69 lots sold with NFT, a unique digital identifier for authenticity. Others, such as flight plans with a checklist of items to bring into space – helmet, tissues and snacks – were signed by Mr. Aldrin and the phrase “journey to the moon”.
“Before that time, it was kind of a swaying situation,” said Mrs. Hutton. People were selling things and there was really no clarity. So there was always this kind of concern that NASA might come in and close the auction.”
A 2018 audit from the space agency’s inspector general found that inconsistent record keeping at NASA resulted in the loss of a “significant amount” of its holdings.
In June, NASA lawyers intervened in the sale of dead crickets that had swallowed moon dust. Before the sale was halted, bidding on the trio of insects came to $40,000.
Now, Sotheby’s space sales are its most popular category, attracting a wide audience of bidders, Ms Hutton said, adding that price ranges have made items more accessible than other valuables, such as fine art. The auction house previously sold items owned by other astronauts, including a small white bag that Armstrong used to collect samples of lunar rocks, which fetched $1.8 million in 2017.
Ms. Hutton said she believes the fascination with space artifacts and missions to the moon, most recently in 1972, continues because of the significance of those discoveries in human history.
“It’s a moment that reminds us all of what we can do,” she said. “We can achieve the near impossible, just as we can escape our fate of being stuck on this planet. We can do amazing things.”
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