A secret pouch that flew on the 1971 Apollo 15 mission is part of a sale of space memorabilia being held by RR Austion. The miniature cloth pouch was carried to the surface of the Moon unwittingly by Mission Commander David Scott inside his spacesuit's life support pack and contained miniature US flags that NASA intended to later distribute to select individuals back on Earth.

According to the auction house, the 7.5 x 4 in (19 x 10 cm) beta cloth pouch and its secret cargo was inside a metal bracket and glued behind the American flag on the Oxygen Purge System (OPS) atop Scott's Portable Life Support System backpack that provided him with air and coolant while walking on the lunar surface. The OPS is an emergency air supply that is designed to flood the astronaut's suit with oxygen if the life support systems should fail while on the Moon's surface, giving them 30 minutes to return to the Lunar Module or rig a buddy-breathing hose with their fellow moonwalker.

"This [hidden pouch] was apparently unknown to anybody else until the OPS was disassembled after the mission by some other member of the CSD and the flag package was discovered," says Scott in a letter confirming the item's provenance. "Both were delivered to [NASA] management for disposition. At the management meeting, I was given the OPS bracket and package and a small number of flags. I was informed that most of the flags were to be held by NASA to be distributed to individuals selected by NASA… I presented some of the flags I was given to people who had made significant contributions to Apollo."

Launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 was crewed by Mission Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin. Its objective was to study the mountainous area of Hadley Rille on the shores of Mare Imbrium.

The mission saw the first use of the manned Lunar Rover vehicle on the lunar surface, the placement of a small satellite in lunar orbit, and the return of the Genesis Rock, which turned out to be the then-oldest known rock ever found with an age of at least four billion years. The astronauts also left behind a plaque with the names of 14 astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in the conquest of space.

The current auction also includes a Penthouse centerfold that flew on Apollo 17 as a prank by the previous Apollo 14 astronauts, who hid the risque photo in the Apollo 17 crew's mission flight plan; a flashlight and batteries that flew on Apollo 9; a Nomex and Silicone A6L spacesuit lunar boot, the design of which was abandoned as unsafe after the Apollo 1 fire; lunar contour maps used on Apollo 15; and a tie pin claimed to have flown on Apollo 11.

RR Auction says that the pouch is estimated to fetch at least US$30,000 and one of the miniature flags about US$15,000. The online auction will continue until April 20.

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