Space Exploration Memorabilia Auction

. July 3, 2009

Following the highly successful sale of a collection of papers from Rocket Engineering icon, Dr. Werner Von Braun, Bonhams New York will be presenting a sale entirely devoted to the history of man’s exploration of space.

Taking place on July 16th, the approximately 400 lot sale fittingly coincides with the week of the 40th anniversary of man’s landing on the Moon and consists of items acquired either directly from the astronauts or that were originally in their collections.


The sale features every tier of space collecting, including artifacts carried inside spacecraft and taken out on the lunar surface. Some of these retain the lunar dust they came in contact with while being used by the Apollo astronauts.

Ranging from the very beginnings of America’s quest to journey into space to the present day Space Shuttle program, amongst the most coveted items to be offered are those from Apollo 11 – the mission which took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the first manned lunar landing.

Over 50 items related to this mission will be presented. Highlighting this group are check list pages carried by Armstrong and Aldrin as a reference aid, listing the actual steps in the descent sequence during man’s first lunar landing.

During this phase in the flight, a series of computer alarms posing a threat to the lunar landing distracted the crew until they were given the all clear from Mission Control. The crew then realized that the guidance system was leading their Lunar Module, named Eagle, toward a large boulder-filled crater. Using the steps described on these check list pages, Armstrong activated the final landing phase program that allowed him to fly Eagle safely past this looming obstacle. With less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining, Armstrong gently placed Eagle on the lunar surface and announced: “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed!”

Each sheet has been inscribed by Buzz Aldrin, confirming that these were the actual sheets taken to the Moon’s surface and used by Neil Armstrong. One of the most significant things to come to market regarding the Apollo 11 mission, this series of three check list sheets is estimated at $125/175,000.

Another item of great interest from the collection is a star chart used to take celestial measurements on the surface of the moon immediately after the Eagle’s landing. With the partner star chart used by Armstrong and Aldrin, just prior to their departure from the Moon, being currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, this lot is clearly of great historical importance and carries an estimate of $70/90,000.

Also cause for excitement is an official Apollo 11 crew insignia originally from astronaut Michael Collins’ collection. Collins was a lead contributor to the design, and wanted a symbol that represented a “peaceful lunar landing by the United States,” as he wrote in his 1974 book, Carrying the Fire. Silk screened onto non-flammable Beta cloth, the lot is one the few items carried on the Apollo 11 mission that was later signed by Neil Armstrong. With an estimate of $25/35,000 it is truly a collecting gem.

To be presented as well is a sheet from the flown flight plan which has the actual point in the elapsed mission timeline that Neil Armstrong first set foot upon the Moon. This was earlier than planned because Armstrong and Aldrin asked for and received permission from Mission Control to start their surface exploration period sooner than scheduled. They skipped the rest period listed on this particular sheet and started the first moon walk. After the flight, Aldrin noted and inscribed the exact time of Armstrong’s historic step as well as his own first step some 19 minutes later, also certifying that the sheet was carried on the mission.

Offering an eye-witness account of man’s first walk on the moon, the lot is estimated at $40/50,000.

An especially poignant piece of Apollo 11 history are the so-called “insurance” postal covers originally from Aldrin’s collection. A letter from him explains that as astronauts, he and his fellow crew members were unable to obtain adequate life insurance, and had to find alternative ways to help their families if the worst happened. Postal covers commemorating Apollo 11 were produced prior to liftoff, signed by the three astronauts, and postmarked on the launch day. These covers were distributed to members of the astronauts’ families, to be sold in the event of the crew not making it back. The emotional lot carries an estimate of $4/6,000.

Another moving piece is a page from the mission’s flight plan which corresponds to the timing of Apollo 11’s return to Earth. The lot is accompanied by a letter from Aldrin describing the crew’s thoughts as they spoke to the world during the momentous live broadcast near the end of their journey home. Estimated at $10/15,000, the piece presents an intimate look into the historic mission.

However, Apollo 11 enthusiasts are by no means the only collectors who will find interest in this sale. There are significant artifacts from Apollo missions 14, 15, and 16.

From the Apollo 16 mission comes one of the most highly estimated lots in the sale- a cuff mounted check list used on the surface of the moon. Presented to backup Commander Fred Haise by astronaut Charles M. Duke after his Apollo 16 flight, the checklist was used during the second and third lunar surface exploration periods by Duke. It was exposed to the lunar environment for over 12 hours and had lunar dust embedded in to several sheets as Duke turned each leaf with his dust coated lunar glove. The checklist’s authenticity is further evidenced by a photo of Duke wearing this check list while touching a large lunar boulder. Considering its direct contact with the moon and the lingering proof of its trip in the form of moon dust, the coveted lot is estimated at $200/300,000. This lot is being sold to benefit the non-profit Infinity Science Center, located near NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

An item directly from Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred Haise and prized for its actual time spent on the moon, is a lunar surface dust brush. It was used during two Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs), or Moonwalks, of the Apollo 14 mission to remove moon dust from the lenses of film and TV cameras. Apollo 14 landed at the area intended for Apollo 13, prior to the oxygen tank explosion that aborted that mission. Given to Haise by astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell the lot carries an estimate of $125/175,000.

Also expected to inspire fierce bidding is a flight vehicle altitude hand controller assembly unit that was part of the Apollo 15 Lunar Module. Considering that Lunar Modules were never designed to return to earth this lot’s appearance on the market is extraordinarily rare. With an estimate of $200/300,000 this is true cause for excitement amongst collectors.

Considered one of the most noteworthy lots in the sale is a film magazine storage case used during the Apollo 15 mission. Flown in the Lunar Module, the case held several 70 mm Hasselblad and 16-mm motion picture film magazines. Due to constant handling by the astronauts, the case straps are coated with lunar dust. One of the largest pieces ever to be offered at auction with significant amounts of lunar dust, the case carries an estimate of $40/50,000.

Early space engineering buffs will be offered a truly exceptional collecting opportunity with the collection of venerated spacecraft design engineer, Dr. Maxime Faget, going to block.

Co-designer of the spacecraft for Project Mercury – the first U.S. manned space flight program – and a contributor to every U.S. human spacecraft from Mercury to the Space Shuttle, the late Dr. Faget was a true legend in the world of spacecraft design. Dr. Faget and his team were responsible for enabling the U.S. to have a vehicle capable of achieving manned orbital flight in the shortest possible time to counter Soviet space flight accomplishments. He received several U.S. patents related to his engineering designs. His collection has period scale models of the Mercury spacecraft along with more than 15 models from later manned programs, including several rare prototype vehicles.

Of the many attractive items coming from Dr. Faget’s collection, perhaps the most desirable is one of the earliest constructed scale models of the Mercury spacecraft, produced by the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. Expected to fetch $10/15,000, the model offered is basically identical to the one displayed when NASA announced the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts and later held by astronaut Gordon Cooper in publicity photographs.

Also to be offered is an early 1970’s shuttle prototype model featuring a swing mechanism used to remove the engines from the booster and put them onto the orbiting shuttle. Clearly showing the exploratory thinking for which he was known, Dr. Faget and two members of his design team hold a U.S. patent on this particular design. Estimated at $3/4,000, it was devised at what was then called NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center where Dr. Faget was Director of Engineering and Development.

Another model to be offered is that of the Saturn-5 rocket which was developed throughout the 60’s and first flown in 1967. This rocket enabled the Apollo astronauts to travel to the moon. The model stands nearly 4 feet tall and comes in its original custom built transit case. Estimated at $10/15,000, it comes with a 1966 photograph of Dr. Faget explaining parts of this model to visiting dignitaries.

Additionally to be presented are Mercury and Apollo blueprints signed by the astronauts and Dr. Faget, as well as a 1958 letter to Maxime Faget stating that he was no longer working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), but rather a new organization – NASA.

Other extraordinary lots from the sale include a sheet from the lunar surface checklist flown on Apollo 11 listing steps to be performed in order to prepare the spacecraft prior to the astronauts’ first moonwalk (est. $15/20,000); a lunar sample return bag – identical to the flown version – designed to contain the Moon Rock Box (est. $2/3,000); and two 1969 Snoopy figurines – one bearing the signature of Apollo 10 lunar module pilot Gene Cernan and the other, that of commander Tom Stafford – created to commemorate the mission’s crew who named their lunar module after the famous cartoon dog (est. $800/1,000).

Category: Antiques News

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