Auction News

Moon-landing flag and Wright Brothers fragments lead space sale


Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

An Apollo 11 US flag that flew to – but wasn’t flown on – the Moon by the Apollo 11 crew will be sold at auction in the US next month.

The stars and stripes is a star lot in Heritage Auctions’ June 14 – 15 Space Exploration Auction that also includes pieces of the Wright Brothers’ plane that were taken to the Moon on Apollo.

The flag is currently attracting a bid of $15,000 but will surely go much higher.

This flag went to the moon and back but wasn’t flown during the triumphant Apollo 11 mission.

It is a 6″ by 4″ silk flag and is being sold by mission commander Neil Armstrong’s family with a statement of provenance from his sons, Rick and Mark.

Heritage said: “Mission-flown U.S. flags are always in demand by Space collectors but this one is a significant relic of an historic event that a collector of any specialty would treasure.”

Fragments of the Wright Flyer, the plane that achieved the first powered flight, are pioneering two times over.

On Dec. 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, the Wright Brothers’ plane left the ground.

On July 16, 1969, parts of it went into space.

As the NASA museum records, Armstrong took a wooden propeller fragment and a piece of the muslin wing aboard Apollo 11 in his personal preference kit.

Fellow astronaut Michael Collins returned them to Earth.

Armstrong was allowed to keep fragments of the items he took, which came from the National Air and Space Museum.

They currently lead the bidding in the space sale at $30,000 for the propeller fragment and $25,000 for the wing fabric.

Museum preservation and family provenance help make this tiny shard of wood one of the most desirable in modern aviation and space history.

Heritage write: “It’s hard to imagine a more significant historical relic being made available to the public.”

Valuing such a piece is extremely difficult. There are almost no auction comparisons, though the catalogue makes clear that other Wright/Apollo pieces exist.

Prices in space collecting have been booming.

There is a premium on items that have travelled into space, and those that have been to the Moon are the most sought after.

An Apollo 11 flown flag sold at auction in 2019 for $5.2 million. In 2022 Buzz Aldrin’s mission jacket realised $2.8 million.

It’s easy to imagine the Wright Brothers artefacts, celebrating two extraordinary moments of human achievement, challenging those prices at hammer. The sale includes items from across the history of the US space programme, including Apollo missions, Space Shuttle flights, and an image taken from the first American spacecraft to circuit the moon, Lunar Orbiter.

Just Collecting