Apollo 11 Flown Rotational Hand Controller Sells for $437,000 in RR Auction’s First Space Exploration Event of 2024

by Brooke Kennedy

For the month of April, RR Auction held the first of two semi-annual Space Exploration and Aviation auctions, bringing bidders 300 items originating from the programs and people that made spaceflight possible. 

The Apollo 11 moon landing is one of the most significant moments in American iconography. As such, when a mission-related item pops up on the auction market, the bids are sure to pile high. Bidders lined up for our space auction’s high ticket item, Apollo 11 flown rotational hand controller #1,  causing the selling price to end the evening with an astronomical price of $437,034.

“Using this gray grip while inside the Command Module, the Apollo 11 astronauts could control the spacecraft’s rotation in either direction around all three axes, using it to adjust yaw, pitch, and roll,” according to RR Auction’s description. “All members of the Apollo 11 crew—CDR Neil Armstrong, LMP Buzz Aldrin, and CMP Michael Collins…would have had the opportunity to use this controller grip while flying the Command Module during Apollo 11.”

Apollo 11 flown CM rotational hand controller #1 used onboard the Columbia aircraft.

The controller comes from the hands of NASA Production Control Engineer William R. Whipkey, who was responsible for the acquisition of all items flown on Apollo missions including flags foreign and domestic. Whipkey also crafted the display on which this Apollo controller is currently mounted. Prior to this, he sold three other pieces used to fly the Apollo 11 spacecraft at auction.

After the event, the controller took its place among RR’s top 100 auction items.

Following the hand controller, with a high bid of $138,908, is an 18K gold Omega Speedmaster Professional belonging to Apollo 12 CMP Richard Gordon.

Gordon’s gold Speedmaster wristwatch displayed in its original Omega case.

NASA timepieces of this variety are of the utmost rarity. Only 26 of these were created and presented to astronauts living deceased for their contributions to the getting man on the moon. Two of these watches were reserved for President Richard Nixon (#1) and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (#2). Originally given to those attending a special gala dinner in Houston Texas on November 25, 1969, each watch is engraved with a quote, their name, their missions, and an issue number. Gordon’s watch was issued as number twenty and the watch’s caseback has encircling text that reads, “Astronaut Richard R. Gordon, Gemini 11 – Apollo 12,” along with the central quote, “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.”

The reverse of Gordon’s watch displays the engraved case back.

RR Auction facilitated the sales of 4 other gold Omega Speedmaster watches in the past. In 2022, the gold watch dedicated and presented to Wally Schirra earned a high bid of $1.9 million – the most expensive Speedmaster Pro ever sold. And, a year later in RR’s April 2023 Space Exploration auction, the wristwatches presented to Gus Grissom, Alan Bean, and Ron Evans sold for a combined value of $974,000.

After the Apollo moon landing, the world was once again captivated by the first joint mission between Russia and the United States – the Apollo-Soyuz test project. From that very mission, RR Auction offered commander Alexei Leonov’s flown logbook complete with various annotations ranging from simple comments to small sketches.

Leonov’s Apollo-Soyuz commander’s logbook turned to a sketch on page 8-6.

Leonov was one of two Russian cosmonauts (along with Valery Kubasov) to take part in the flight alongside three American astronauts, Tom Stafford, Deke Slayton, and Vance Brand. Through this mission, two former rivals of space exploration solidified future collaborations such as the Shuttle-Mir and International Space Station programs. It would be during this expedition that Stafford and Leonov would share their historic handshake on July 17, 1975.

Highlights from Leonov’s annotations include a lengthy description of an onboard problem with electrical wiring and a sketch of the Soyuz aircraft itself surrounded by the moon and stars. This incredible piece of history earned a final price of $49,984 for its consignor.

With summer approaching, it’s the perfect time to free up some space in your collection. We’re gearing up for several events and are seeking items to sell in the coming months. Our first of two Steve Jobs and Apple auctions was a great success with the record breaking sale of a Steve Jobs signed business card and other tech-related pieces. And, our second event is slated to see similar success. Our Remarkable Rarities auction is also the perfect place to get plenty of eyes (and dollars) on your high ticket artifacts. If you have an item that fits either category, our team will happily assist you when you call 800-937-3880 or when you submit photos of your items by clicking the button below.

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