Buy the only camera to go to the moon and back (allegedly)

An Austrian auction house will soon take bids on a camera it claims is the only handheld to come home from an Apollo mission.

Jim Irwin and the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the surface of the moon during Apollo 15.
NASA/David Scott

NASA sent 14 handheld cameras along on its manned lunar landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but only one of them made it back to Earth -- or at least that's what the Austrian auction house that's putting it up for bid next month is claiming.

Vienna-based WestLicht says that astronaut Jim Irwin took exactly 299 pictures on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission with the Hasselblad 500 "EL Data Camera" that will start with an initial bid of 80,000 euros ($108,136) at auction on March 22.

Hasselblad 500
The Hasselblad 500 from Apollo 15. WestLicht

Apollo 15 took place in the summer of 1971 and is considered one of the more successful Apollo missions -- it's the one where astronauts were able to cruise around the surface of the moon in a lunar roving vehicle for the first time.

The majority of cameras taken to the moon on Apollo missions were left there due to weight restrictions. NASA thought it more important to bring back specimens of moon rocks and other samples than more selfies of the entire planet taken by what could be considered a very long arm extended out from Earth.

However, to call this the only camera to return home from the moon is a bit misleading. Just a few years ago, NASA had a public tiff with Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, asking him to return a lunar movie camera he had kept from the mission.

And, as points out, it seems that the Hasselblad handheld used on Apollo 14 also made it back home -- mission transcripts show that mission control asked Alan Shepard to bring the whole camera back to Earth, rather than just the film.

So, if you're a wealthy person looking to be the absolute coolest kid on the planet when it comes to owning the only handheld camera with a trip to the moon under its belt lens, it seems you may be out of luck. If you're just a wealthy person interested in owning a very cool piece of history, then this may be the camera for you.