Buzz Aldrin’s space memorabilia sells for more than $8 million

A 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 a Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, fetching the tallest among dozens of rare pieces of memorabilia that trace his career in space. exploration

Mr. Aldrin, now 92, has a storied career as an astronaut, joining NASA in 1963 after flying for the Air Force. Within three years, he had executed the world’s first successful spacewalk on the Gemini 12 mission. Then, on July 20, 1969, millions watched on television as he became the second man to walk on the moon , about 20 minutes after Neil Armstrong, who declared it to be “one giant leap for mankind”.

The custom jacket worn by Mr. Aldrin on that mission sold after fierce bidding that lasted nine minutes, with the auctioneer calling it “the most valuable American space artifact ever sold at auction.” (The garments worn by the other two Apollo 11 astronauts on this mission are owned by the Smithsonian.)

In total, 68 of the 69 lots belonging to Mr. Aldrin were sold Tuesday for a combined $8 million by Sotheby’s in Manhattan in an auction that lasted more than two hours.

Derek Parsons, a spokesman for Sotheby’s, said the Buzz Aldrin sale was the “most valuable space exploration auction ever.” It broke a record set by an auction of items belonging to Mr. Armstrong, who died in 2012, but the other astronaut’s total collection still holds the overall record.

The most coveted artifacts sold on Tuesday traveled to the moon and back more than five decades ago. A complete Apollo mission flight plan summary sold for $819,000.

Only one lot did not sell: it included the small broken circuit breaker that almost left the Apollo 11 crew on the Moon and a dented aluminum pen that Mr. Aldrin used as a manual solution to achieve takeoff. Bidding stalled at $650,000, well below the auction estimate of $1 million.

Mr. Aldrin said in a statement that “the time was right to share these items with the world, which for many are symbols of a historic moment, but for me they have always been personal memories of a life dedicated to science and exploration.”

Among the items sold at auction were gold-colored lifetime passes to Major League Baseball games, for $7,560, and an MTV Video Music Awards statuette modeled after Mr. Aldrin’s iconic image placing the American flag on the surface of the moon, which brought in $88,200. .

A Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for civilians, awarded to Mr. Aldrin by Richard M. Nixon, sold for $277,200. These medals don’t come up for auction very often, Mr. Parsons.

There was also a letter dated December 10, 1973, written by Mr. Armstrong, which cost $21,420. In it, he tried to dissuade Mr. Aldrin from turning his memoirs into a movie: “I can’t think of any biography of a living person that has ever been made into a good, high-quality movie.”

Mr. Aldrin was not convinced. The biopic aired three years later.

Although this film was not a critical success, Mr. Aldrin inspired the name of Buzz Lightyear, the animated Pixar character from the “Toy Story” movies.

Ten of the 69 lots in the sale came with an NFT, a unique digital identifier for authenticity. Others, such as flight plans with a checklist of items to take into space (helmet, tissues, also snacks) were inscribed with Mr. Aldrin’s signature and the phrase “Flown to the Moon.”

“Before then, it was kind of a touch and go situation,” Ms Hatton said. “People were selling things and there was really no clarity. So there was always this kind of concern that maybe NASA would come in and shut down an auction.”

A 2018 audit by the space agency’s inspector general found that NASA’s inconsistent record-keeping had resulted in the loss of a “significant amount” of its property.

In June, NASA lawyers intervened in the sale of dead cockroaches that had ingested moon dust. Before the sale was halted, bids for the trio of insects had reached $40,000.

Now, Sotheby’s floor sales are its most popular category, attracting a wide audience of bidders, Ms. Hatton, adding that the price ranges made the items more accessible than other valuables, such as fine art. The auction house has previously sold items owned by other astronauts, including a small white bag that Mr Armstrong used to collect moon rock samples, which fetched $1.8 million in 2017.

Ms. Hatton said he believed the fascination with space artifacts and missions to the moon, the last in 1972, endures because of the importance of those discoveries in human history.

“It’s a moment that reminds us all what we can do,” he said. “We can achieve the almost impossible, like we can escape our fate of being stuck on this planet. We can do incredible things.”

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