By Marice Richter
DALLAS, May 14 (Reuters) - A microfilm Bible regarded as one of the rarest "books" on earth, after flying around the moon once with Apollo 13 and later landing on the moon's surface with Apollo 14, sold at an auction of space memorabilia in Dallas on Wednesday for $75,000.
The 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch (3.8 cms by 3.8 cms) "Lunar Bible," which can be read with a microscope, is one of 12 complete Bibles that remain from a collection of 100 Bibles which made it to the moon's surface with astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1971.
"This tiny microform contains the complete Bible, all 1,245 pages of the King James Bible, both Old and New Testaments," said Michael Riley, senior historian for Heritage Auctions.
The Bibles were produced by the Apollo Prayer League, a group started by NASA employees and spread globally with the idea of using man's first trip to the moon to carry the words of God, the auction house said.
Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell carried 512 of the stamp-sized Bibles on the 1970 mission that was supposed to land on the moon but did not after an oxygen tank explosion in flight severely damaged the spacecraft.
Most of those bibles were cut into pieces and distributed to dignitaries over the years.
Twelve of those that remained passed from John Stout of the Prayer League to astronaut Mitchell. One of the bibles is on display through June 22 at the Vatican, where it is a marquee artifact along with three fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to a news release from Vatican Radio.
The other stars of the auction were a variety of items from the personal collection of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, including the life support strap Bean wore during an eight-hour moonwalk in November 1969. The strap, with traces of moon dust, sold for $93,750. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Edith Honan and Grant McCool)