Space Exploration Themed Auction Taking Place in New York Today


This one is for space buffs keen to own a piece of history. A New York auction house is offering up moon dust along with dozens of other space exploration items as part of an upcoming sale.

Bonham's Space History sale will feature close to 300 artifacts related to decades of international space exploration. The range includes shiny spacesuits, flight items from the historic Apollo 11 mission, lunar-flown American flags, photographs and personal effects belonging to cosmonauts.

At a preview held Friday (April 4), visitors got a chance to breathe in space nostalgia, as they stared at photographs of man on the moon and a range of small and large articles, including lunar rover models.

Cassandra Hatton, Senior Specialist, Fine Books and Manuscripts and Space History, Bonham's helped organize the auction and is a space enthusiast herself. She said every little bit and piece of the space program is symbolized at the auction.

"The sale really covers from the early days of space exploration all the way through ASTP (Apollo-Soyuz Test Project) which is kind of a symbolic end of the space race. So we start with telescopes, before we thought we could even possibly go up to the moon. We've got some globes and then we go into the Mercury program, Gemini program. We have some Soviet material. We have things from Apollo 11 through Apollo 17. Space photography, models -- both Soviet and American, items that have flown to the lunar surface, items that have flown around the moon, things that were owned by astronauts, that came out of their personal collections, that were signed by them," she said.

According to Hatton, two of the top lots are from the Apollo 11 mission, the historic spaceflight to put men on the moon. The first is an emblem flown with the craft into lunar orbit, and signed by the most iconic space crew in history - Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. It is estimated at $40,000-60,000 (USD).

The second is a checklist sheet with notes made by Aldrin while on the moon. His handwriting is very clear on the paper. The sheet is estimated at $35,000-45,000. Both sides of the sheet contain data that helped the astronauts pilot the craft and return to Earth.

The auction also includes several spacesuits.

One is from the first American manned flight program, Project Mercury. It is pegged at $8,000-12,000. Conducted in the late 50s, early 60s, the purpose of Project Mercury was to put a human being into orbit around the Earth. The Phase 2 suit, circa 1960, is colored silver and has a matching helmet.

But the upcoming auction isn't just about American achievements in space. America's biggest space competitor, Russia is represented as well. A Russian Strizh spacesuit shares window space with the Mercury spacesuit. It was designed to protect cosmonauts from ejection at altitudes up to 30 kilometers and is estimated at $15,000-20,000. This suit is one of only 27 created for test and training purposes between 1981-1991.

Another key item from Russia -- a piece of hardware from the Mir Space Station.

A popular section of the auction, according to its organizers, is lunar-flown American flags. These tend to appeal to the patriotic side of collectors.

Highlights include a silk American flag carried to the moon by Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 mission, which is estimated at $20,000-30,000. There is also a stars and stripes carried by Fred Haise on the infamous Apollo 13 mission (est. $15,000-20,000). Haise intended to take the flag to the lunar surface, but the landing was scrubbed when an oxygen tank exploded causing a major electrical outage.

As for the moon dust, it is not legal to purchase moon rock or moon dust. The closest option is to buy items used by astronauts on the moon, which acquired films of moon dust on them. Hatton explains, "On the surface of the moon we don't have water, so the dust is very sharp and angular, So what would happen is that the astronauts would go out on the surface, do their activities and the dust would stick all over their suits. And then they'd go back into the lunar module and touch things, they'd strap things down and that dust would stick."

A piece of the moon won't come at a petty price though. A stowage strap belonging to Apollo 12 Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad is made of brown teflon fabric and two sets of snap buttons and two velcro hook patches. The lunar dust settled into the velcro hook patches. It was accumulated while Conrad conducted extensive surface explorations. It's pegged at $25,000-35,000.

The hammer goes down on these items on April 8th.

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