Apollo 17: one last small step for man

Apollo 17's crew landed on the Moon today in history, December 11, 1972. To date, it is the last time mankind has visited the lunar surface.

To the moon and back: Ron Evans's Rolex ($131k)
To the Moon and back: Ron Evans's
Rolex ($131k)

Apollo 17 - actually NASA's eleventh manned space mission, and sixth manned Moon landing - landed on the Moon a whole five days after taking off on December 7.

The mission was a success, and broke a number of records set by previous flights.

It was the longest manned lunar landing. Commander Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent more time on the lunar surface - nearly three days and three hours - than anyone else.

As a result, Apollo 17 retrieved the largest lunar sample, building on the precedent for important scientific discoveries set by Apollos 15 and 16.

Today, Cernan, Schmitt and Command Module pilot Ronald Evans may not be household names like Neil Armstrong, but this hasn't stopped collectors spending large amounts on Apollo 17 memorabilia.

One auction that attracted great deal of attention earlier this year was the sale of Ron Evans's personal 1968 Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master watch.

As the Command Module pilot, Evans never got to walk on the Moon. Instead, he placed the Rolex in his Personal Preference Kit (PPK) which was taken to the Moon's surface by his crewmates.

The watch was on the Moon's surface for 72 hours during Cernan and Schmitt's lunar exploration. It smashed its pre-auction estimate, eventually selling for an incredible $131,450.

An Apollo 17 plaque ($31k)
An Apollo 17 plaque ($31k)

An engraving on the back of the watch reads: "FLOWN ON APOLLO XVII 6-19 DECEMBER 72 ON MOON 11-17 DEC RON EVANS."

Along with Evans's watch, 12 lunar module identification plates were also flown to the Moon on Apollo 17.

Three of the engraved metal plaques - reading "APOLLO XVII LUNAR MODULE - 12 CAPT. E. A. CERNAN, DR. H. H. SCHMITT, CMDR. R. E. EVANS" - were presented to the crew upon their safe return.

The plaque from the personal collection of Ron Evans, despite a minor bend on its left corner, left the auction block at valued an impressive $31,070.

25 coloured Apollo 17 mission insignia ($31k)
25 coloured Apollo 17 mission insignia

Also selling for $31,070 was a collection of historic memorabilia in two heavy plastic bags: 25 colour Apollo 17 mission insignia - one of the most detailed of the Apollo series - printed on Beta cloth swatches.

Bearing a NASA-MSC "Cleaned for Service" sticker with the handwritten specification "MSCM5322", the bags have never been opened since their sealing 37 years ago, just weeks before they were flown to the Moon: a one-of-kind, sealed and perfectly preserved artefact.

Each of the items sold at Heritage Auction Galleries' 2009 October Signature Space Exploration Auction in Texas, US.

Meanwhile, following a successful year for space memorabilia, Bonhams is planning a sequel to its blockbuster July 2009 Space Sale.

With Bonhams' 2010 sale being timed to coincide with the anniversary of Apollo 13, and with space collectibles now firmly established in the global market, Apollo 17's time will surely come.

If you are on the lookout for space collectibles, at Paul Fraser Collectibles we also have a number of historic and one-of-a-kind NASA items which can be yours to own - including Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins's flight suit.


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Images: Heritage Auction Galleries

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