Lunar scoop, Aldrin's space suit patches up for auction

The space suit patches from Buzz Aldrin's Gemini 12 space suit, presented by the astronaut to his parents as a Christmas gift in 1966, are estimated to sell for as much as $75,000 at a public auction Tuesday.

Aldrin's patches — given to his parents "with a grateful son's love," according to the inscription — are among the more expensive items available Tuesday at the Heritage Auction Galleries sale of air and space artifacts.

The priciest item looks like a dustpan with a foot-long aluminum handle. It's actually a scoop used by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell to pick up moon dust on the 1971 Apollo 14 mission. Its estimated worth: as much as $300,000.

Other items being auctioned include an American flag that went to the moon's surface on the Apollo 14 mission, a pair of needle-nose pliers from Apollo 16 and a lunar chart used during Apollo 17.

"When one considers ... just how few actual objects have been off-planet, it's amazing to think that any of us would have the opportunity to actually own one of these incredibly rare pieces," said Tom Slater, director of Americana auctions for Heritage.

Slater said the space memorabilia have "impeccable provenance." More than 100 lots in the auction come directly from astronauts such as Aldrin, Charles Duke and Richard Gordon.

Heritage last month refunded thousands of dollars after auctioning off bogus Hollywood memorabilia, including a whiskey flask purportedly owned by Errol Flynn and a Humphrey Bogart-engraved cigarette case. The auction house is suing the company that provided it with the phony items.

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