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Moonfire - Most Expensive Taschen

Armchair astronauts who could only dream of going to the Moon are being offered a chance to let it come to them, but at an astronomical price.

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Branded the ultimate in coffee-table chic and billed by its publisher as one of the most expensive publications in the world, Moonfire,which chronicles the Apollo 11 lunar mission, allows its owners not only to read about the Moon, but also to touch it.

Included in 12 copies of the tome will be a slice of a meteorite that hurtled from the Moon to Earth. Without the souvenir, the book costs $1,000 (£609) a copy. With it, the price goes into orbit.

It will be thousands, hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Kind of like a diamond said Creed Poulson, the public relations manager at Taschen America, the publishers.

The book, which was released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, narrates the event through the words of one of the most influential writers of the time, Norman Mailer.

His feature on the landing, written for Life magazine in 1969 and subsequently turned into a book, Of a Fire on the Moon, is hailed as a seminal work providing a cultural and philosophical analysis of the US space programme and Apollo 11 story.

"I've worked as assiduously as any writer I know to portray the space programme in its largest, not its smallest, dimension," Mailer told Neil Armstrong in a letter in 1970.

It will be Mailer's first posthumously published book. It is illustrated with previously unseen copies of his handwritten notes and manuscripts, alongside photographs from Nasa, Life and private collections.

Each copy is signed by Buzz Aldrin and has a framed print of the iconic photograph of him standing on the Moon with Mr Armstrong reflected in his visor. Only 1,969 copies of Moonfire exist.

The first 1,957 are for sale online, but for the final 12 Taschen is compiling a waiting list pending professional valuations for the lunar meteorite samples that will accompany them.

Only about one in a thousand meteorites known to have landed on the Earth come from the Moon. They are ejected from the Moon at more than 5,000mph by the impact of asteroids or comets and may linger in space for tens of millions of years before reaching the Earth's gravitational field.

Recovered from areas such as Antarctica and the Sahara, they can be certified by their mineral composition and differ from the samples collected by Nasa.

"Meteorites are rare; lunar meteorites are extremely rare," Randy Korotev, a lunar geochemist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, said.

"Scientifically, lunar meteorites are valuable because they come from randomly distributed locations on the Moon. The Apollo samples came from a restricted region of the near side."

Costly words

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