Spacesuits, moon dust and astronaut gear for sale at auction

Space-age memorabilia is going up for sale at an auction in New York City today. A collection of nearly 300 items from the U.S. and Russian space programs will be offered at Bonhams auction house.

Among the highlights is an autographed emblem flown into space on the first moon landing and signed by all three members of the Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. It's estimated at $40,000 to $60,000.

Other prized items include a Mercury program spacesuit from about 1960, several American flags carried into space, and moon dust-covered gear worn by astronauts during the Apollo 12 mission.

Apollo 11's lunar surface checklist sheet with annotations by astronaut Buzz Aldrin is expected to sell for $35,000 to $45,000. The data enabled Aldrin and Armstrong to return to earth, and Bonhams calls it one of the most extensive sets of notations ever made on the lunar surface.

Also offered for sale is a motion picture sight ring, a small polarizing filter put on a camera that was used by astronaut James Irwin on Apollo 15.

"It was used in the module when it landed on the moon and also on takeoff," said Cassandra Hatton, Bonham's space history specialist. "It's extremely rare, probably the only one in private hands." The sight ring is being sold by Irwin's estate and is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.

Another item coveted by space buffs is the Apollo 12 shoulder strap encrusted with moon dust. It was used when astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean conducted two extensive surface explorations during which they accumulated a large amount of lunar dust on their suits, gloves and flight equipment. The strap has a pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.

The sale is significant because "we have items that came directly from astronauts, items that they carried into lunar orbit with them, items that went to the lunar surface and items that have lunar dust on them," Hatton said.

A Mercury-era spacesuit is offered for sale with an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. This particular spacesuit is not attributed to any astronaut and was never flown into space.

Soviet-era artifacts include a Strizh spacesuit designed to protect cosmonauts from ejection. One of only 27 created for testing and training purposes between 1981 and 1991, it is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.

There's also a control panel from the now-defunct Mir space station, space agency models of U.S. and Russian rockets, and a real novelty: a Cosmonaut Survival Machete, a piece of emergency gear carried by all Russian Soyuz flights to assist the crew in case of a remote unscheduled landing (a bargain at $500 to 700).

American flags flown on various expeditions also are in the sale, including a silk version carried to the moon by Aldrin on Apollo 11. It's estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.

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