US Coins

Rare space-flown Apollo 17 Robbins medal in auction

An example of what are considered the rarest of the space-flown silver Robbins medals is offered in RR Auction’s November sale.

Bidding begins Nov. 9 and ends Nov. 16.

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The 1.25-inch medal is one of just 80 such sterling silver medals carried aboard the America and Challenger spacecraft on the final Apollo mission landing on the moon — Apollo 17. This flight carried the fewest Robbins medals of any of the Apollo missions.

The medal carries an estimate of $30,000+.

The Apollo 17 crew comprised Lunar Module Pilot Harrison H. Schmitt, Commander Eugene A. Cernan and Command Module Pilot Ron Evans.

The Apollo 17 Robbins medal was consigned to the auction by former scientist-astronaut Ed Gibson, who made his only flight into space in 1973-1974 aboard Skylab 4, the third and final manned flight for Skylab.

The medal’s obverse depicts a raised rendition of the mission insignia and official emblem of the Apollo 17  lunar landing mission, featuring an image of the Greek god Apollo, an American eagle, and a background including the Moon, the planet Saturn and a galaxy or nebula.

Inscribed around is APOLLO ? 17 and CERNAN ? EVANS ? SCHMITT.

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The reverse is encircled with raised text, AMERICA-CHALLENGER – APOLLO XVII – THE BEGINNING around the stacked, engraved dates of December 6, 1972 for launch; December 11, 1972 for landing at the lunar site; and December 19, 1972, for the spacecraft re-entry date.

The medal is serial-numbered F44 incuse on the edge.

With Apollo 17 being the last of the lunar manned missions, NASA planned for an ambitious schedule. According to a brief history of the flight at, “The lunar landing site was the Taurus-Littrow highlands and valley area. This site was picked for Apollo 17 as a location where rocks both older and younger than those previously returned from other Apollo missions, as well as from Luna 16 and 20 missions, might be found.”

According to NASA, “Scientific objectives of the Apollo 17 mission included, geological surveying and sampling of materials and surface features in a preselected area of the Taurus-Littrow region; deploying and activating surface experiments; and conducting in-flight experiments and photographic tasks during lunar orbit and trans­earth coast.”

The mission’s several firsts included the first night launch. The exhaust from the Saturn V rocket carrying the astronauts into space lit up the night sky and was visible for long distances. Also a first: “Apollo 17 hosted the first scientist-astronaut to land on the moon: Harrison Schmitt.” Schmitt held a doctorate in geology, studying at universities in the United States and Norway. He trained other Apollo astronauts assigned to lunar missions before beginning his training for his own mission.

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