Space memorabilia auction hits $1.24 million mark in New York

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - An emblem that traveled with US astronauts on the 1969 Apollo moon flight and a check list from that historic mission were the top-selling items in a sale of space memorabilia, Bonhams auction house said on Wednesday.

Nearly 300 space enthusiasts and collectors from 17 countries on four continents bid by telephone or in person in New York on Tuesday in the auction that took in US$1 million (S$1.24 million), with 80 per cent of the 300 items sold.

"Space exploration interests people globally, of all ages and all walks of life," Cassandra Hatton, senior space specialist at Bonhams in New York, said in a statement.

The Apollo 11 checklist sheet with data recorded by crew member Buzz Aldrin while on the moon rocketed past it pre-sale estimate of US$45,000 and sold for US$68,750.

Another top seller was an emblem showing an eagle with an olive branch above the moon's surface that was identical to the ones worn on the spacesuits of the crew.

It fetched US$62,500, slightly more than expected, and was signed by the astronauts - Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins - on the historic mission.

An American flag carried by Aldrin brought in US$47,500, double its estimate.

Another popular item was the Mercury Era spacesuit. It fetched US$43,750, five times it pre-sale estimate, after lengthy bidding. The spacesuit was from the start of the US human space exploration program - the Mercury Project - that launched the first American into space. The last flight was in 1963.

A rare Russian Strizh spacesuit, one of only 27 made, failed to reach its reserve price. Many of the suits cosmonauts used for tests and training from 1981 to 1991 were damaged or destroyed.