Buzz Aldrin Sale tallies US$8.1m in New York, capped by American ex-astronaut’s record-breaking moon jacket

In 1969, NASA's Apollo 11 lunar mission was successfully completed. American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the moon and walk on the lunar surface. More than 50 years later, the 92-year-old Aldrin decided to auction his collection of the moon landing-related items.

During the sale on 26 July, 68 out of 69 lots were sold – which achieved a sale total of US$8.1 million dollars. Leading the sale was Aldrin’s white jacket that he wore during the space mission, which realised US$2.7 million dollars. It became the most valuable American space artefact ever sold at auction.

Lot 6 | Buzz Aldrin’s Flown Inflight Coverall Jacket, worn by him on his mission to the Moon and back during Apollo 11

Manufactured in 1968

  • Directly from the personal collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$1,000,000 – 2,000,000
Sold: US$2,772,500

Buzz Aldrin

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

The auctioneer started the bidding at US$700,000 dollars. After a 10-minute bidding amongst multiple bidders, the hammer was dropped at US$2.2 million dollars. In the end, the space jacket fetched US$2.7 million dollars with buyer’s premium. 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 a record-breaking US$2 million dollars at Heritage Auction New York. 

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 

The jacket is made of a fire-resistant material called Beta cloth – adorned with 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.

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

An Apollo 11 badge is sewn onto the space jacket 

On July 16, 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.

Lot 15 | Flown to and used on the Lunar Surface: the broken circuit breaker switch that nearly ended the lives of the Apollo 11 Crew & the pen that saved them

Pen Length: 13.9 cm | Broken Circuit Breaker Switch Diameter: 0.9 cm

  • Directly from the Personal Collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$1,000,000 – 2,000,000

In fact, the Apollo 11 lunar mission was not all smooth sailing.

After Aldrin completed the mission on the lunar surface, when he returned to the lunar module to rest, he found a small black object laying on the floor. He picked it up and realised that it was a switch of the Engine Arm’s circuit breaker. Without this part, the engine could not be ignited, and the two could not leave the moon. While reporting to Houston, the two pondered whether there was a compromise.

Since the circuit breaker switch is an electrical device, there is a chance of being electrocuted if it is touched with metal or body. Aldrin then realized that he had the perfect tool for the job; he seized the Duro Rocket pen that he and Armstrong had been using to make critical real-time mission notations on a few documents in the Lunar Module. He inserted the pen into the small opening where the circuit breaker switch used to be. As a result, he successfully ignited the engine and left the moon.

During the sale, this pen was the one Aldrin used that year; while the small black part is an engine circuit breaker switch that was accidentally dropped. The two was auctioned as a group, but was unsold in the end.

Other highlight lots:

Lot 7 | Flown Apollo 11 Summary Flight Plan – A Complete Summary of the Entire Mission, From Launch to Splashdown, 11 pp. on 7 leaves

Carried on and used during the flight of Apollo 11, July 16 to 24 1969
26.6 x 21.5 cm

  • Directly from the Personal Collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$100,000 – 150,000
Sold: US$819,000

Lot 16 | Lunar Surface Flown Apollo 11 LM Systems Activation Checklist (Jettison), 69 pp. on 36 leaves of card stock, divided into 25 tabbed sections

20.3 x 15.2 cm

  • Directly from the Personal Collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$150,000 – 250,000
Sold: US$567,000

Lot 23 | Lunar Surface Flown Apollo 11 Lunar Module Water Dispenser / Fire Extinguisher

Manufactured by Whirlpool Corp, circa 1969
19 x 15.2 cm

  • Directly from the Personal Collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$12,000 – 18,000
Sold: US$327,600

Lot 55 | Buzz Aldrin’s Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, Presented to him by President Nixon

Verso: Inscribed “Presidential Medal of Freedom, Buzz Aldrin. August 13, 1969” | Reverse: Serial number 25, inscribed “Presidential Medal of Freedom, Colonel Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. USAF August 13, 1969”
7.6 x 7.6 cm

  • Directly from the Personal Collection of Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin

Estimate: US$20,000 – 30,000
Sold: US$277,200

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Buzz Aldrin: American Icon
Date: 26 July 2022
Number of lots: 69
Sold: 68
Unsold: 1
Sale Rate: 98.5%

Sale Total: US$8,184,578