The NASA logo, also referred to as “the meatball,” was designed by a NASA employee in 1959, the year after the organization was founded.

Mar 2024

Cover Story

​Landing Among the Stars

NASA collectibles enjoy resurgence in popularity

by Corbin Crable

Americans will be looking to the sky next year as the second phase of NASA’s Artemis II program takes its first crewed test flight of the program’s Orion spacecraft. The program is designed to eventually land a crew on the Moon twice by 2029. The last crewed mission to the Moon was conducted in December 1972.

NASA’s return to the Moon after more than 50 years has led to a renewed interest in all things related to space – that awe-inspiring, vast expanse that holds immeasurable possibilities for humankind and has sparked questions about our place in the universe for millennia.

NASA itself – that’s the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — was established in 1958. Members of the Baby Boomer generation and even some early Generation Xers will remember President John F. Kennedy’s pledge in 1962 that Americans would eventually land on the Moon by the end of that decade. The president’s promise would become NASA’s crowning achievement on July 20, 1969, in an event watched by revelers across the globe. In the years both before and since, the genre of science fiction has inundated pop culture, from comics like “Flash Gordon” to beloved TV series and films such as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”

original “Star Trek” TV program

Original “Star Trek” TV program

The cast of the original “Star Trek” TV program witnesses the rollout of the spacecraft Enterprise in 1976. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Turns out, NASA’s space travels are highly collectible, too, with some items from the institution’s history fetching hundreds to thousands at auction. These items currently listed on eBay, Etsy, and antique auction house websites are sure to amaze any space case or dreamer with their head in the clouds:

NASA Apollo-era SCAPE helmet

This helmet was designed for handling of toxic fuel, worn by those transporting dangerously volatile and corrosive fuel to and from the Kennedy Space Center. This helmet still has its “property of NASA” tag attached to the helmet’s interior. “SCAPE” stands for “Self-Contained Atmospheric Protection Ensemble.” The helmet is being sold on eBay for $2,500.

Also being sold on eBay for an affordable $98 is a collection of ephemera related to the space shuttle Enterprise, built in 1976 to conduct atmospheric test flights. A 1975 booklet describing the shuttle’s mission, its use/operation, and its limitations; another booklet containing diagrams and the ship’s specs is included, as is a third booklet outlining future projects and equipment testing plans. Although the craft originally was named Constitution, Trekkies likely are aware of a campaign in which hundreds of thousands of “Star Trek” fans asked U.S. President Gerald Ford to rename the ship after the popular space craft from the beloved television show. The campaign worked, with Ford asking NASA leadership to change the name. The cast of the original “Star Trek” TV show, along with creator Gene Roddenberry, were on hand during the rollout of the Enterprise in Palmdale, California, on Sept. 17, 1976.

A helmet used to transport toxic fuel

A helmet used to transport toxic fuel

A helmet used to transport toxic fuel, this item is Apollo-era item is being sold for $2,500 on eBay. Image courtesy of eBay

plaque commemorating the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing

Plaque commemorating the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing

An original plaque commemorating the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. (Image courtesy of eBay)

The crew of the ill-fated Challenger

The crew of the ill-fated Challenger

The crew of the ill-fated Challenger STS 51-L appears in a 1986 promotional photo on this signed, commemorative postcard. Science teacher, Christa McAuliffe (back row, second from left) was to be the first civilian in space. (Image courtesy of


If you’re willing to pony up $1,100 on eBay, you can be the owner of an authentic and original Apollo 11 commemorative plaque only given to NASA families and employees associated with the 1969 mission. The original plaque also comes with a replica plaque that the astronauts placed and left on the Moon during the first lunar landing.

An original photo from a NASA photographer documents the launch of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, currently selling for $1,500. The spaceflight in April 1970 was nearly a deadly one for the crew, which had to abandon its mission to land on the Moon after an oxygen tank in the craft’s service module ruptured, crippling its electrical and life-support system. The crew instead looped around the Moon, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and touched down safely, thanks to the help of the flight’s Mission Control crew, who worked tirelessly to bring the astronauts home alive as the craft’s oxygen and electrical resources dwindled by the hour. The story of the perilous Apollo 13 mission was told in a 1995 film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as mission commander Jim Lovell.

Collectibles bearing the signature of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, can be found on At the time of her flight on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, the 33-year-old Ride also became the youngest American astronaut in space. Photos, letters, and press releases signed by Ride are listed on the site at prices between $140 and $500.

New NASA-themed items

New NASA-themed items

New NASA-themed items like this metal lunch box will delight the next generation of space enthusiasts. (Image courtesy of

ventilation garment, worn by astronauts

Ventilation garment, worn by astronauts

This ventilation garment, worn by astronauts to ensure a cool body temperature during space missions, is being sold for nearly $8,000 on Etsy. (Image courtesy of Etsy


A rare piece of memorabilia for the serious collector is an Apollo-era NASA space shuttle cooled and ventilation garment, going for nearly $8,000 on Etsy. Also called a “spaghetti suit” due to the network of water transport tubing interwoven throughout the suit, this item was worn by astronauts in order to maintain a comfortable body temperature during their spacewalks. According to the product description provided by the seller, “Cold water flowing through the tubing drew heat away from the astronaut’s body, returning to the suit’s primary life support system, where it was cooled in a heat exchanger before being recirculated.”

Also on Etsy, one of the many products made in anticipation of the 1969 moon mission – a metal piggy bank depicting the original Apollo shuttle orbiting the moon. Made in 1968 by the John Wright Co., only 500 units were made, making it especially coveted among collectors. The piggy bank can be yours for $167. Throughout most the 20th century, the John Wright Co. was known for its production of cast iron toys and novelties until the 1980s, when cast iron toys declined in popularity; the company then shifted its focus to producing hardware.

A warning to collectors


Supposed samples of moon rocks can be found on auction sites everywhere. Encased in resin, they are proudly listed as being genuine, but they usually are sold for as little as $10. According to NASA, the Apollo missions collected more than 2,000 samples, some of which are on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Original samples collected during lunar missions are considered priceless. Moon rocks can be determined to be genuine through radiometric testing, and actual moon rocks are exceedingly rare; according to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, those tiny pieces being hawked by eager merchants on auction sites are likely nothing more than fragments of petrified wood.


NASA’s own online shop reveals that demand for collectibles related to space is only growing. Currently, it lists several collectibles related to its Artemis I mission for sale, with Artemis II items sure not be coming up in the coming year. For more information, visit

This moon rock fragment

This moon rock fragment

This moon rock fragment is on display at a Houston, Texas, museum. (Image courtesy of The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Museum)

spacesuit, on display at Science City in Kansas City, MO

Spacesuit, on display at Science City in Kansas City, MO

This spacesuit, on display at Science City in Kansas City, MO, was made for and worn by Donn Eisele, senior pilot of the Apollo 7 mission in October 1986. (Image courtesy of Patti Klinge)

1968 cast iron piggy bank commemorating NASA’a Apollo 11

1968 cast iron piggy bank commemorating NASA’a Apollo 11

A 1968 cast iron piggy bank commemorating NASA’a Apollo 11 mission, which would launch the following year. (Image courtesy of Etsy)

The Apollo 13 shuttle in 1970 liftoff

The Apollo 13 shuttle in 1970 liftoff

This photo captures the liftoff of the Apollo 13 shuttle in 1970; the shuttle’s crew members were forced to abandon their mission when their oxygen and electrical systems became compromised. (Image courtesy of NASA)

Alan Shepard moon shot statue

Alan Shepard moon shot

Alan Shepard moon shot replica statue. (Image courtesy of