Record-Breaking £6.7 million space auction

5 min


Landmark auction held at New York’s Sotherby’s 

The jacket worn during mankind’s first mission to the moon has just sold for more than £2 million. 

Sotherby’s say the piece of Buzz Aldrin’s inflight uniform is ‘the most valuable American space artifact ever sold at auction.’ 

‘It has been a privilege to work alongside Buzz to bring such prestigious objects to market for the first time.’ 

‘Today’s record breaking outcome proves the ongoing and everlasting significance of the Apollo 11 Mission, some 53 years since man first walked on the Moon,’ says Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s Global Head of Science & Popular Culture

The auction of Buzz Aldrin’s personal collection, containing space flown artifacts from the Gemini XII and Apollo 11 missions, astronaut training materials, and items from his early career, took place in New York at the end of July.

It charted a new course in auction history, as it became the most valuable single space exploration sale ever staged, achieving a staggering £6.7 million ($8.2 million) at Sotheby’s New York. 

There was strong bidding throughout the sale, with 98% of lots finding buyers and 94% selling above their high estimates.

The auction was led by Aldrin’s Flown Inflight Coverall Jacket, worn to the moon and back during the Apollo 11 Mission. 

Exceptional rare garment

Having remained in Aldrin’s private collection since he returned home from the moon on July 24 1969, the exceptionally rare garment was chased by multiple bidders for almost ten minutes before selling for £2,200,00 ($2,772,500).

The price means it is the most valuable American space artifact ever sold at auction and the most valuable jacket ever sold at auction.  

Further notable prices were achieved during the sale, including for Apollo 11 Summary Flight Plan containing a complete summary of the entire Apollo 11 Mission, from launch to splashdown. 

The nine-page booklet encloses the full timeline of the mission, including descriptions of the Lunar Module landing, the Lunar Surface EVA (Moonwalk) and Lift off from the Moon. The plan sold for £675,000 ($819,000) over five times its pre-sale high estimate.  

Elsewhere a lunar surface flown Apollo 11 LM Systems Activation Checklist fetched nearly £470,000 ($567,000). 

The 36 leaf checklist contains numerous manuscript notations made by Aldrin while on the lunar surface and was never intended to return to Earth bearing a ‘Jettison’ tag.

The label meant it was supposed to be discarded on the moon in order to lighten the load during the crew’s return to Earth. 

But, Aldrin chose instead to retain this book, which has proved to be an incredibly rich source of information not previously known about the mission.

Record prices for space artifacts 

It notes additional items that were transferred from the Command Module to the Lunar Module prior to descent. 

This included the moulded earpiece which sold for just over £66,000 ($81,900). The estimated price was between £6,500 to £10,000 ($8,000 – $12,000). There were also numerous notes on the state of the Lunar Module following their descent.  

Among the more practical items on offer in the sale was a Lunar Module Water Dispenser / Fire Extinguishing tool.

This was a crucial piece of hardware designed to dispense measured amounts of hot or cold water for the purpose of rehydrating the astronauts meals for drinking and for extinguishing fires. 

It’s value had been estimated to be between £8,000 – £15,000 ($12,000 – $18,000). The dispenser was sold for around £270,000 ($327,600) which made the final bid nearly 20 times higher than its original estimate.  

The sale also included the ‘Original Moonman’ MTV VMA Statuette presented to Aldrin in 1984. This which sold for more than £70,000 ($88,200) which surpassed its high estimate of £8,220 ($10,000) by more than eight times. 

Sotherby’s says the ‘Original Moonman’ statuette represents the deep and wide-ranging cultural influence of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk, with Aldrin’s silhouette from his moonwalk remaining the symbol of the VMAs nearly 40 years later. 

Unique digital identifiers

In connection with the scientific legacy of Aldrin’s career as an astronaut, eight lots from today’s sale were accompanied by a MIRAImage™ NFT. 

This is a unique digital identifier linked to its physical object using novel microscopic 3D scanning technology and advanced mathematical techniques that extract the object’s identifying ‘DNA.’ The sale marked the very first time that MIRA technology was applied to objects sold at auction. 

In a statement provided before the auction, Aldrin commented: ‘This collection is a summation of my career as an astronaut, from my studies at West Point, to my first EVA during Gemini XII, to humankind’s first lunar landing on Apollo 11 where we planted the American flag, and a bit beyond.’ 

‘After deep consideration, the time felt right to share these items with the world, which for many are symbols of a historical moment, but for me have always remained personal mementos of a life dedicated to science and exploration.’ 

‘From the jacket that I wore on my trip to the Moon and back, to the famous broken circuit breaker switch that nearly ended our lives, and the pen that saved us, to various artifacts we used to complete the mission, I hope that this collection offers some insight into what it has been like to be Buzz Aldrin.’

Buzz Aldrin’s Flown Inflight Coverall Jacket and exhibition photography kindly supplied by Sotherby’s (New York)

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