Apollo 13 History on Auction Block

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Published April 13, 2010

| Space.com

NEW YORK -- Some high-profile items from America's space program, including a signed mission checklist for NASA's infamously unlucky Apollo 13 moon mission, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder by Bonhams auction house this week.

The auction, to take place on Tuesday in New York, will feature over 290 lots. Objects from the Mercury, Gemini Apollo and Space Shuttle programs will be for sale, including a patch and pin from the first moon landing. It comes on the 40th anniversary of the oxygen tank explosion that crippled the Apollo 13 mission and one day after the 29th birthday of NASA's shuttle fleet.

Some highlights among the offerings include an Apollo 11 patch donated directly by astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot for the first moon landing mission in 1969. Experts estimate the patch will sell for between $40,000 and $60,000. 

Collins orbited the moon in July 20, 1969 while his crewmates -- Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, made the first manned moon landing. 

Also for sale is an emergency checklist that was used and annotated during the Apollo 13 mission, NASA's third manned moon mission, which returned three astronauts to Earth safely after a near-fatal accident in space. An explosion crippled the Apollo 13 spacecraft on the April 13, 1970 – two days after launch – forcing the astronauts to use their lunar lander as a lifeboat until they were able to safely return to Earth. 

Bonhams experts estimate the Apollo 13 checklist, with its harrowing past, to be worth between $20,000 and $30,000.

Another big-ticket item on offer is a diamond and gold pin that was given to NASA director of flight crew operations Deke Slayton by the widows of the three astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. The late astronauts had planned to give the pin to Slayton themselves, but never got the chance. Later, Slayton lent the pin to astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took it to the moon with him during the Apollo 11 mission. This item could sell for $80,000 to $120,000.

"We're proud to continue this annual New York auction of space history," said Matthew Haley, Bonhams specialist. "The auction features items that hark back to the first golden age of space exploration, when man sought to reach the moon, along with lots that celebrate what came before and after these monumental trips to the lunar surface."

Tuesday's auction is actually one of three this week selling off prized items of American space history. [Gallery: Project Apollo.]

On Friday, Regency-Superior Galleries will kick off a two-day auction of space and aviation stamps and other memorabilia. On Saturday, the Ira & Goldberg Auctioneers will launch a one-day auction of space memorabilia and manuscripts. Both auctions will be held in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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