One item now coming up for auction is billed as the first ever “lunar Bible” — a little square sheet of microfilm, just an inch and a half on a side, carried to the lunar surface by astronaut Edgar Mitchell on Apollo 14 in February 1971.
The auction begins online Sept. 15, and the minimum bid is $5,000. There are 831 other items being offered by RR Auction of Amherst, N.H., but Bobby Livingston, who’s running it, says he’s especially fond of the tiny Bible.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and Earth. …” It’s all there, 1,245 pages of the King James Bible in microscopic type, and Livingston says it has been flown to the moon more often than any person.
As the story goes, 512 copies of the microfilm were made by a group called the Apollo Prayer League, led by a Texas minister named John Stout. They were approved to be carried in the Lunar Module for Apollo 12, the second landing mission, but by mistake they were packed into an astronaut’s personal belongings that remained in the Command Module, which only orbited the moon.
Stout tried again. He arranged for them to fly on Apollo 13, this time in the landing ship, but as you’ll recall, Apollo 13 suffered an explosion, swung around the moon, and made it home only through ingenuity and luck.
The third time is always the charm. Mitchell carried 100 copies of the microfilm in his personal kit on Apollo 14. In 2000, needing money, he sold what he still had at auction. He signed a letter at the time certifying that, to his knowledge, only 12 copies of the lunar Bible were still intact.
“Many of these men were very spiritual,” said Livingston. “Buzz Aldrin celebrated communion in the Lunar Module. Mitchell was interested in ESP.” He quoted one astronaut as saying, “I know infinity exists.” How? “Because I saw it, dammit!”