Sample of Lunar Rock from the Moon Sells for US$855,000

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 since it was launched on 21 December 1968. Appollo 8 is the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return safely to Earth. Sotheby’s held a sale offering a wide variety of material from both the American & Soviet space programs, including lunar & space photography, flown mission artefacts, and items from the personal collections of astronauts. The top lot of the sale was three samples of lunar rock from Luna-16, selling for US$855,000.

The sample weights 200mg

The sample is the only known documented sample of lunar rock in private hands, collected during the Soviet Luna-16 mission. It was originally sold for US$442,500 at Sotheby’s in 1993.

Authentic lunar samples available for public acquisition may be qualified as extremely rare, as title to all lunar samples remains with the entities that collected them. The present sample was presented as a gift to the widow of Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, a rocket engineer, spacecraft designer, and mastermind of the Soviet space program.

Luna 16 Lunar Lander

Sergei Pavlovich Korolev was the mastermind of the Soviet space program



A complete Gemini spacesuit with helmet, gloves and boots

The second top lot fell to a complete Gemini spacesuit with helmet, gloves and boots, which sold for US$162,500. The present suit is the only American spacesuit to have come to market complete with cover layer, inner pressure bladder, helmet, gloves and boots.

NASA policy has always been to give the Smithsonian right of first refusal on all items flown during the US manned space missions. The items that have been the most prized by the Smithsonian are the flown space suits, making it impossible for a member of the public to own one, finding a NASA that is complete is a near impossible thing —indeed of those few that we are aware of having come to market, all 3 were cover layers only. 

The gloves for this suit were originally made for Pete Conrad

The boots for this suit were originally made for Frank Borman

The gloves for this suit were originally made for Pete Conrad, who flew on Gemini 5 with Gordon Cooper, and the boots for this suit were originally made for Frank Borman, who flew Gemini 7 during which he set a 14 day spaceflight endurance record, while the main body of the suit itself was made for one of the 5 'Air Jumpers', Air Force Chief Warrant Officer Mitchell Kanowski.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Another highlight of the sale, the iconic image from the Apollo Program showing Buzz Aldrin stepping on the Moon’s surface. It is inscribed and signed ‘Magnificent Desolation, BUZZ ALDRIN’. It sold for US$275,000.

Highlights from the sale

Soil Samples From Luna-16

Lot no.: 63
Collected: 1970
Estimate: US$700,000 - 1,000,000
Price realised: US$855,000

A Gemini G-2c-4 Full High Altitude Pressure Suit

Lot no.: 112
Manufactured: 1963 - 65
Estimate: US$100,000 - 150,000
Price realised: US$162,500

Neil Armstrong Snaps the Iconic Picture of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Lot no.: 187
Size: 16 x 20 inches
Estimate: US$8,000 - 12,000
Price realised: US$27,500

Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Space Exploration
Sale date: 29 November 2018
Sale total: US$2,506,438