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Sotheby's to auction Apollo 11 moon landing tapes

Sotheby’s is planning to auction off an out-of-this-world collection on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — but owning a piece of space history comes at a hefty price.

The event, which takes place on Saturday, includes three original videotape reels of the moon landing. Those are estimated to sell for at least $125K.

“They’re the earliest surviving recording of that moon walk with the highest quality data on them,” Sotheby’s (BID) vice president and senior specialist Cassandra Hatton told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.

“Everything else-- what you have seen on YouTube, or if you go to NASA’s website and watch that-- those were all made from data that was transmitted from those tapes,” Hatton said on YFI PM.

Since they were first purchased by a NASA intern in 1976 for just under $218 dollars, their value has grown exponentially.

According to Hatton, the tapes were first sold in a government surplus auction. At the time, NASA believed it was selling the second-best copy of the moon landing.

JULY 1969 FILE PHOTO - Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, is photographed during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the Moon in this July, 1969 file photo. He had just deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP). In the foreground is the Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP); beyond it is the Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LR-3); in the center background is the United States flag; in the left background is the black and white lunar surface television camera; in the far right background is the Lunar Module. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. July 16 marks the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. SV/JP

When the footage was transmitted on July 20, 1969, a lunar surface television camera sent signals back to earth during the live broadcast. The data was then captured on satellites, which were transferred to Houston’s Johnson Space Center , then recorded on tapes.

NASA didn’t realize they had sold the original tapes until years later.

“Fast forward to 2008 when they’re gearing up for the 40th anniversary and they want to do a special presentation,” Hatton told Yahoo Finance. “They go into the archives to pull these reels and they couldn’t find them.”

And determining the value of these tapes now is tricky, she added, given how the value of rare artifacts are evaluated.

But space-enthusiasts have a chance to bid on more than just the tapes at Saturday’s auction. Other items up for sale include Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 medallion and Roger Chaffee’s helmet cover from the Apollo 1 mission— the first mission in the manned lunar landing program.

Sotheby's Apollo 11 auction items

An Apollo 11 command module boost cover release label is also expected to bring in a stellar profit. The label was salvaged from the outside of the command module Columbia, the spacecraft from Apollo 11. That craft bears the scars of the original mission.

“You can see if you look closely, there are burn and scorch marks. That’s from reentering the earth’s atmosphere,” Hatton added.

Another piece of foil salvaged from the same capsule sold at a Boston auction for $155,000.

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