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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bulova Stopwatch Used on Apollo 15 Moon Flight Up for Auction

Photo credit: Bonhams

There are plenty of watches at auction with lunar calendars. Here’s one that was actually on the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott took a specially made Bulova stopwatch with him to the moon while inside the Command Module Endeavor and the Lunar Module Falcon. This watch is among personal items of several astronauts will be sold at Bonhams New York Space History Sale on May 5. The stopwatch, with Scott’s signed provenance note, has a presale estimate of $120,000 to 180,000.

The watch was used to time the duration of the Descent Orbit Insertion maneuver and to time the rendezvous maneuvers after launch from the lunar surface. The DOI maneuver had to be terminated within 0.3 seconds of the planned 24.5 seconds to ensure that the spacecraft would not impact the moon (as indicated by the small strip of tape on the face of the timer). The timer could also be used with the rendezvous back-up charts to ensure the LM could join the CSM in lunar orbit after the crew launched from the lunar surface.

Scott also had a standard-issue Omega Speedmaster on hand with a stopwatch function, but its dial was dark, and the markings and buttons small, Bonhams said. With its bright, clear dial and large plungers and crown, the Bulova stopwatch was considered ideal for double-checking the duration of engine burns.

The Bulova stopwatch has a two-inch main dial with second hand registering up to 30 seconds in increments of 0.1 second, with a subsidiary dial cumulator registering up to 30 minutes. , numerals in red on white dial. Blued steel hands. Blue stenciled "S" below Bulova name. Strip of duct tape at 23-second mark, and additional strip around rim near right plunger. Two plungers and crown. Reverse with ½-inch square of red velcro, and engraved letters "DRS" (Scott's initials). With original box and papers.

Watch back Photo credit: Bonhams

Scott obtained this timer from Bulova during preflight training at the request of a friend. NASA verified that the stopwatch was onboard the spacecraft during the mission. However it was not included in the official onboard stowage list due to an oversight by the personnel who packaged and stowed the flight equipment. NASA deliberately withheld the name of the manufacturer to avoid commercialization.

Bulova's Accutron clock was an integral part of the spacecraft computer systems, and a Bulova timer was left by Apollo 11 astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, to control the transmissions of data back to Earth. Despite these achievements, it was Omega's Speedmaster that received fame as the "moon watch."

Very few timepieces from the lunar surface have been offered in auction, and no other stopwatch is likely to come to the market, Bonhams said.

Other highlights of the sale include:
• A Russian spacesuit, Sokol K, worn by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, Commander of the Soyuz 19 Spacecraft, during the historic Apollo-Soyuz Test Project on July 15-19, 1975. This mission represented a symbolic end to the Space Race. Estimate, $100,000-150,000;

• A Russian spacesuit, Sokol KV-2, used by cosmonaut Gennadi Strekalov on the Soyuz TM 10, from August 1 to December 10, 1990, during a mission to the Mir space station. Estimate, $60,000-80,000;

• Apollo 14 Maurer Camera, from the personal collection of Edgar Mitchell, the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 14 and the sixth person to walk on the Moon. This 16mm Maurer Data Acquisition Camera was used to film movies through the Lunar Module Pilot's window during the approach and landing of the Lunar Module. Estimate, $60,000-80,000;

• Apollo 14 Tissue Dispenser, flown into orbit to the moon. Estimate, $6,000-8,000.

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