Going against NASA’s wishes for the artifacts to be donated to a museum, a collector just sold three control joysticks used on the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. Selling for over $780,000 (£615,700), the joysticks included the main pilot control stick used by the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, in the command module.
The three joysticks were sold separately and included two rotational attitude controllers and a translation hand controller. One of the rotational attitude controllers used by Armstrong fetched the highest bid at $370,000.
In the official description from Julien’s Auctions, the joysticks were dubbed “some of the most important pieces in space exploration history,” and rightfully so – the Moon landing is the most well-known space mission ever undertaken.
According to Space.com, the joysticks were reportedly meant to be given to the three astronauts but were refused and put in a safe where they remained for many years.
"According to the former NASA employee who managed the safe, prior to his retirement in 1985, he asked his supervisor what to do with the controllers and was told to throw them out; however, he instead took the three controllers home," NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) wrote in an audit of NASA’s historical property. "Years later, the former employee sold the controllers at auction to a collector of space memorabilia."
NASA has tried desperately over the last decade to prevent these items from falling into private collectors’ hands. After the joysticks went up for auction in Boston back in 2013 alongside other Apollo 11 memorabilia, a NASA inquiry into the true ownership of the items prevented the sale. NASA requested that the items be donated to a museum, but have since given up.
Apollo 11 memorabilia fetch hefty sums whenever they come up for auction, with two 50th anniversary auctions last year selling various items for up to $5 million. Items for sale have included the flight timeline manual that was used by the astronauts during the mission and Neil Armstrong’s gold medallion keepsake.