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Apollo 15 camera lens used on moon zooms onto auction block

It's not often a piece of moon exploration history becomes available for your personal collection, but a Zeiss telephoto lens going up for auction has quite a story to tell.

Zeiss lens from the moon
This lens has been to the moon and back.
RR Auction

You can pick up a vintage Zeiss 500mm telephoto lens for less than $1,000 on eBay. So what would possibly make a such a lens worth closer to $600,000? A trip to the moon would do it.

RR Auction is putting a rare piece of NASA history up for auction when a telephoto lens used on the moon's surface goes on sale later this month. The Zeiss Tele-Tessar comes from the personal collection of former astronaut Dave Scott, the spacecraft commander of the 1971 Apollo 15 moon mission.

Apollo 15 was NASA's fourth manned lunar mission and the first to explore an area that included the Hadley Rille channel and the Apennine mountain range at the edge of the Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains). The lens helped document the mission, with 293 photos attributed to it and the Hasselblad Electric Data Camera it was attached to.

Scott lobbied for the inclusion of the lens on the packing list for the mission, and it got plenty of use over the course of three days on the lunar surface and two days in orbit around the moon. "After the mission, I received the lens from NASA as a memento of the mission and it has been in my personal collection since that time," Scott notes.

The lens isn't in pristine condition, which isn't surprising considering its adventure. Velcro tabs and pieces of duct tape adorn the lens, which is also signed by Scott, who provided a detailed letter of provenance to go with it. The auction description notes the lens "possibly retains some lunar dust" on a strip of the tape.

Bidding for the lens and other auction items starts on April 14 and ends on April 21. Other lots of interest to space and aviation fans include a Saturn V flight control computer, a piece of the ill-fated Hindenburg airship and a cosmonaut's spacesuit glove. The lens is expected to fetch between $400,000 (£283,300, AU$526,800) and $600,000 (£425,500, AU$791,400).