Best of 2022 | Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 jacket becomes the most valuable US space artefact at US$2.7m

After more than two years of pandemic lull, the auction industry is bouncing back from the crisis to pre-pandemic levels – if not better. In fact, 2022 has been a stellar auction year where numerous records were set. As we ring in the new year, let's look back on the "best of 2022" in the auction world.

As 2022 celebrates the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who is one of the first people to set foot on the moon, decided it was the right time for him to share with the world his personal collection of the moon landing-related memorabilia.

In the space auction which took place at Sotheby's New York in July 2022, a jacket that Aldrin wore on his historic journey to the Moon and back during Apollo 11 fetched an astonishing US$2.8 million, making it the most expensive jacket and American space artefact ever sold at auction.

Buzz Aldrin’s Flown Inflight Coverall Jacket, worn by him on his mission to the Moon and back during Apollo 11
Manufactured in 1968
Auction House: Sotheby’s New York
Auction Date: 26 July 2022
Sold: US$2,772,500

Back on 16 July, 1969, the three astronauts – Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins – were on the Apollo 11 mission and lifted off on a rocket. After the trio arrived in lunar orbit, they worked separately. Aldrin and Armstrong took the Eagle lunar module to prepare to land on the moon.

Meanwhile, Collins remained in command of a spacecraft called Columbia. Unlike Armstrong and Aldrin, Collins never walked onto the moon. He was circling the moon and waited for his two companions. Because of that, Collins is often described as the forgotten astronaut.

Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the surface of the moon, and carried out tasks such as lunar walks and lunar samples collection. After 21 hours 38 minutes on the moon’s surface, the astronauts used Eagle’s ascent stage to launch it back into lunar orbit. After various manoeuvres, Eagle once again docked with Collins in Columbia, and the trip back to Earth began soon afterwards.

Buzz Aldrin

The Apollo 11 crew (from left): Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin

The jacket is made of a fire-resistant material called Beta cloth, with the adornment of an American flag, Nasa's initials, a patch for the Apollo 11 mission and the name tag, E Aldrin.

All other flown garments from the Apollo 11 mission – including Aldrin's Inflight Coverall trousers and boots, as well as Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins' complete flown Inflight Coverall suits, and all three crew members' flown A7L pressure suits – are housed in the National Air & Space Museum Collections, Washington D.C. It made this the only flown garment from Apollo 11 available for private ownership.

The bidding for such a rarity started at US$700,000. After a 10-minute bidding war amongst multiple bidders, the hammer was brought down at US$2.2 million, selling for a record-breaking US$2.7 million with fees. Alongside becoming the most valuable American space artefact, Sotheby's also added that it was also the most expensive jacket sold at auction.  

Before this auction, the most expensive American space artefact is also related to Apollo 11. In 2019, Neil Armstrong’s 14K gold Robbins medal garnered US$2 million at Heritage Auction New York. 

Aldrin's space jacket is made of a fire-resistant material called Beta cloth

An Apollo 11 badge is sewn onto the space jacket

The 14K gold Robbins gold medal that Neil Strong brought to the moon | Heritage Auctions New York, 2019 | Sold: US$2,055,000

The medal's reverse side inscribed with the three Apollo 11 astronauts and date