Sci-Tech

An old film canister just fetched $13,000 at auction

When bidding on detritus you'd probably walk past at a flea market, it's not the condition of the item that counts, it's where it's been.

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Film canisters...from SPAAACE. RR Auction

What makes a nearly 50-year-old empty film canister worth over $13,000? Being among the first of canister-kind to make a trip to the moon and back, apparently.

Last week, a Hasselblad film canister that apparently once held film used on the surface of the moon was auctioned off for $13,434.58 (about £8,852, AU$17,176) as part of an auction that included a number of items from NASA's Apollo era. Many of these goods likely wouldn't garner a second look at a yard sale, if not for the extraterrestrial miles they put on.

A backpack strap used by astronaut Edgar Mitchell on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission fetched a remarkable $41,806.80 (about £27,545, AU$53,450). The strap is signed by Mitchell himself and includes a letter of authenticity also signed by the astronaut. The strap supported Mitchell's life support system, which provided oxygen, cooling and radio communication, while he set the record for longest moonwalk with a cumulative time on the lunar surface of 9 hours and 23 minutes during the mission. Or, as Mitchell himself wrote in the letter of authenticity:

"Apollo 14 was the first lunar landing devoted primarily to scientific exploration, and completed two periods of surface exploration, each exceeding four and one-half hours. The first was devoted to setting up and activating a telemetry station...The second period of extra-vehicular activity (EVA) was devoted to collecting documented soil and rock samples from nearby Cone Crater."

Another notable piece from the same auction was the computer display and keyboard (or DSKY) that gave astronauts access to the Apollo guidance computer. The system looked something like the panel we often use to pay at the pump for gas today. Astronauts entered two-digit codes in a verb-noun sequence for each program. The DSKY went for a winning bid of $65,189.60 (about £42,954, AU$83,346).

But one of the items that went for the highest amount may never have actually made it in to space. That didn't stop space nuts from bidding up the price of an Apollo command module rotation hand controller to almost $75,000 (about £49,418, AU$95,890). Because who doesn't want an actual spacecraft joystick? It kind of makes you the king of everything from Space Invaders to Star Citizen even if you suck at the games.

In fact, it's something of a bargain when you consider that a similar joystick that actually made it into space went for over $600,000 (about £395,347, AU$767,116) last year.

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No touchscreens for Apollo astronauts. RR Auction