1960 The Space Engine
2013 SOLD 178 K$ including premium
While the public was fascinated by Mercury, the NASA also operated another major program, the X-15, with some discretion but without seeking to maintain secrecy.
Launched by the U.S. Air Force with the participation of the U.S. Navy before being transferred to NASA in 1960, the X-15 rocket aircraft was highly important for appreciating the fluid mechanics of the upper atmosphere. The aircraft andits engine were reusable, opening in many aspects the way for the future NASA space shuttle.
The first autonomous flight of an X-15 took place in September 1959 with two XLR-11 engines. Then came the final XLR-99 engine, qualified in 1960. To put these events in the timeline, remember that the ballistic flight of Alan Shepard was made on 5 May 1961.
The performances of the X-15 were breathtaking. Mach 6 speed was reached in November 1961, and Joe Walker crossed the altitude of 100 km in 1963. An X-15 pilot named Neil Armstrong will later be the first man to walk on the Moon.
The XLR-99 engine was developed by Thiokol for the prime contractor of the project, North American Aviation. An example is estimated $ 150K, for sale on January 11 in Anaheim CA by Regency Superior.
Here is the link to the catalog. Its flight history is not indicated online, either because the information is confidential, or because it could be a spare model.
POST SALE DISCUSSION
This lot was sold at the price of its estimate, $ 150K before fees.
1961 From Sputnik 1 to Gagarin
2011 SOLD 2.9 M$ including premium
Only a month later, Sputnik 2, a large conical capsule of 4 meters high and 2 meters in diameter at the base, established unequivocally that the goal of the Soviets was a successful manned flight.
The death of the dog Laika during the flight of Sputnik 2 showed that this test was premature. The Russians, embarrassed by this event, waited 45 years to confess that her death was due to excessive heat. Anyway, the martyred dog would not have passed the conditions of reentry.
Thereafter the program was held step by step. In August 1960, two dogs, a rabbit, two rats and 42 mice came back alive after a full day in orbit.
The Soviets were now ready to send the first cosmonaut in space. Becoming cautious, they made a last rehearsal on March 25, 1961, with the dog Zvezdochka aboard Sputnik 10. The success of this mission provided the green light for the flight of Gagarin on April 12, 1961.
Half a century has passed since that historic flight. On April 12 in New York, Sotheby's will sell the Vostok 3KA-2 capsule used for the Sputnik 10 mission. This prestigious carcass was emptied for a long time of its equipment. It is illustrated on the press release shared by Artdaily.
It is identical to Gagarin's capsule, and unique of its kind on the market. Its price is hard to predict. The auction house announces a very opened range of estimates: between 2 and 10 million dollars.
POST SALE COMMENT
It was difficult to predict the price for something so unique on the market. It remained reasonable: $ 2.9 million including premium.
1969 The Treasure that came from the Moon
2017 SOLD for $ 1.8M including premium
Neil Armstrong reached the lunar ground on July 21, 1969 at 02:56:15 UTC. After his statement for the history, his very first activity was to observe the soil and to take small rocks and dust. The managers of the mission wanted to avoid that a later incident prevents this highly precious collection which was carried out before Aldrin descended from the LM to join him.
Armstrong keeps his specimens in a Contingency Sample Bag specially designed to protect users against unidentified hazards. The bag is made with a multi-layer insulating fiber named Beta cloth along with polyester and closed by a brass zipper. It was emptied during the return journey with a vacuum process that was not very effective since some lunar dust remained inside the bag.
Flight used artefacts from Apollo 11 are very rare in the art market except for a few astronaut-managed memorabilia. The Contingency Lunar Sample Return Outer Decontamination Bag in which Armstrong temporarily stored his first samples is estimated over $ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on July 20, lot 102.
The availability of this historic piece at auction is the result of a double negligence from the NASA. In the 1970s when the Agency provided the Smithsonian with what remained of the Apollo 11 mission, the absence of the bag was not identified. NASA also did not check in 2014 a private collection ready to be auctioned on request from the government after a fraudulent behavior of its owner, the former director of a space museum in Kansas.
Identified as "One flown zippered lunar sample return bag with lunar dust ("Lunar Bag"), 11.5 inches; Tear at center. Flown Mission Unknown" the bag was finally bought in March 2015 by an amateur geologist delighted with that opportunity. She opens the pouch, records the references, starts an online search and finds that what she bought for $ 995 is the very first bag to have contained lunar samples.
NASA confirms the authenticity as well as the lunar nature of the dust remaining in the bag. Upset with their own blunder they tried to recover the artefact but the auction had been guaranteed by the US Marshals Service. Two lawsuits confirmed the regular ownership by the bidder who now promises to give to various charities a portion of the proceeds of the sale which she is entrusting to Sotheby's.
1903-1969 From Flyer to Eagle
2018 SOLD for $ 275K including premium
On December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Flyer's four successful trials were the first flights of a heavier-than-air engine-powered machine controlled by a pilot on board. Reluctant to publish their feat to avoid attracting the attention of competitors, the Wright brothers are much concerned about the follow-up of their patent application.
Damaged at the end of the day, Flyer is not reusable. The Wright brothers keep its wreckage in crates until 1916 when the MIT offers to manage an exhibition. The hardware had been damaged in 1913 in a flood. Orville Wright changes the covering of the wings with a similar fabric.
To the great surprise of the heirs, the original Flyer's fabric is found in the estate of Orville Wright. It is then cut into small pieces that are offered for memory to pioneers in aeronautics. A 3.2 x 4.1 cm fragment that had belonged to Edwin E. Aldrin, father of the future astronaut, was sold for $ 32.5K including premium by Heritage on May 11, 2018.
Contrary to the extreme confidentiality practiced by the Wright brothers, the Apollo 11 mission and the Moon landing of its Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969 with Armstrong and Aldrin on board are viewed immediately throughout the world. This unprecedented technological feat is accompanied by many celebrations. As a tribute to the Wright brothers, pieces of Flyer's wing cloth and wooden propeller provided by the Air Force Museum had been carried down to the Moon surface in the LM.
Neil Armstong gets to keep for his personal collection some of these tiny witnesses of the dual achievement of Flyer and Eagle. Six lots are sold from his estate by Heritage in Dallas on November 1 : two propeller fragments 29 x 9 mm and 29 x 8 mm as lots 52284 and 52285 and four muslin cloth fragments as lots 52280 to 52283, the largest being 3.8 x 5 cm overall.
Here is the link to the lots that meet the 'Wright' text search in that sale. Please watch the video shared by Heritage.
RESULTS including premium :
from the propeller (2 lots) : SOLD for $ 275K each
from the wing : top lot SOLD for $ 175K
SOLD FOR: $275,000.00 | Apollo 11 Lunar Module Flown Piece of the Wright Flyer's Propeller, Flown as Part of the First Successful Powered Flight in History at Kitty Hawk in 1903 as well as the First Manned Lunar Landing in 1969, Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection™ pic.twitter.com/G1OlOOkJBT— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) November 2, 2018
SOLD FOR $162,500.00 | Apollo 11 Lunar Module Flown Section of the Wright Flyer's Wing Fabric, Position #6, Flown as Part of the First Successful Powered Controlled Flight in History at Kitty Hawk in 1903 as well as the First Manned Lunar Landing in 1969 #HeritageAuctions pic.twitter.com/XEoEZl1Q4C— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) November 2, 2018
1970 Three Samples of Lunar Dust
1993 SOLD for $ 440K including premium by Sotheby's
Facing their American competitors, the Soviets found a brilliant engineer to conceive and operate their space program. To ensure his protection, his identity will not be revealed until his untimely death in 1966 : Sergei Pavlovich Korolev.
Korolev was the manager of all the important projects : ballistic missiles, Sputnik which was the first spacecraft to orbite the Earth, the approach to the Moon by the robotic Luna probes, Vostok which first traveled a man in space, and the Soyuz space vehicle.
Luna made several great achievements : first impact on the Moon of a man-made spacecraft with Luna 2 in 1959, first photograph of the far side of the Moon in the same year by Luna 3, first soft landing by Luna 9 in 1966.
Luna 16 in 1970, Luna 20 in 1972 and Luna 24 in 1976 scratched the soil of the Moon and brought back some dust for a cumulative weight of 326 g. For comparison Apollo human missions carried 380 Kg of lunar rocks and dust on Earth.
As a tribute to Korolev, three tiny particles collected by Luna 16 were presented to his widow. They were encased together under glass below an adjustable lens. This set is the only example of lunar soil from the space programs that has ever been in private hands : samples kept by governments and their diplomatic gifts cannot be available for trade.
This lot was sold for $ 440K including premium by Sotheby's on December 11, 1993. It is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 29, lot 63.
1971 Commander Scott explores the Moon
2015 SOLD for $ 1.62M including premium
The stopwatch was used by Scott to provide a redundancy for controlling the operating time of the descent of the Lunar Module, specified to 24 seconds with a tolerance of only 0.3 second. Scott considered that the dial of his Bulova was easier to read in operation than the Omega instrument. It passed with an estimate of $ 120K at Bonhams on May 5, 2011.
The other instrument is a more classic chronograph that Scott carried on his wrist in the third and final moonwalk of the mission. The most spectacular feature of Apollo 15 was the first use of a motor vehicle on the moon, the Lunar Rover. In this tour that departed the astronauts up to 5 Km from the LM, an error in assessing the time could have caused a fatal lack of oxygen or of battery power.
This piece of equipment escaping the official mission is the only watch in private hands that has been used on the surface of the moon. It will be sold on October 22 in Boston by RR Auction, lot 9001. Here is the link to the post issued by the auction house.
1971 Hasselblad, Back from the Moon
2014 SOLD 660 K€ including premium
This phase culminates with the missions on the surface of the Moon, beginning in 1969 with Apollo 11. The HEDC (Hasselblad Electric Data Camera) is derived from the model 500EL, adapted to be easily operated by the large gloves of the astronauts. Each magazine is sized for 200 photos.
These instruments are heavy. The procedure requires that only the magazine loaded with the film must return to Earth, the normal fate of camera and lens being to remain on the Moon in order to minimize the weight for the travel back to Earth.
However, the Hasselblad used on Apollo 15 in 1971 by James Irwin was recovered in its entirety. It is possible that the withdrawal of his second film did not work and that NASA did not want to lose the precious images.
Irwin continued to make shots during the return trip. Knowing how NASA is little inclined to improvisation, it seems more likely that this unit had benefited from an extended program planned in advance.
This camera with such a unique history is estimated € 150K, for sale by WestLicht in Vienna on March 22. It is illustrated on the article shared by Canoe.
POST SALE COMMENT
This remarkable instrument of the Lunar exploration was sold for 550K € before fees.
1971 Long Focal Length on the Moon
2016 SOLD for $ 450K including premium
Photography is scientifically indispensable. The autonomy of their new vehicle does not enable to come close to the geological features seen on the horizon. The two astronauts are equipped with Hasselblad cameras as in the previous missions.
The tele-lens Tele-Tessar 500mm f/8 designed and made by Carl Zeiss AG specifically for use on the Lunar Hasselblad is a new feature on Apollo 15, keenly desired by Commander Scott who managed to convince NASA of its advantage for the mission.
Scott intensely used this instrument on the Moon: he stated that he took 293 tele-photos during this mission. With 30 cm added to the length of the camera, this equipment was indeed cumbersome and a YouTube video shows Scott falling with his Hasselblad in hand.
All Hasselblad used on the Moon were left therein except the other Apollo 15 camera, for a technical reason. It was sold for € 660K including premium by WestLicht on March 22, 2014.
The Tele-Tessar was returned to Earth and was offered to Scott by NASA to commemorate the mission. It is estimated $ 400K for sale by RR Auction in the online sale that ends on April 21, lot 6501.
This lens is illustrated in the article shared by Gizmag. The Hasselblad camera on which it is photographed is of course not the original equipment that remained on the Moon and is not included in this lot.
(1970)-1972 From Switzerland to the Moon
2015 SOLD for $ 245K including premium
Speedmasters accompany the whole history of the Lunar conquest. An ad of that time for Omega indicates : Tested in Switzerland. Tested in Houston. Tested on the Moon.
On December 15 in New York, Christie's sells at lot 15 a stainless steel Omega Speedmaster caliber 861 manufactured in 1970 and used in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission by the astronaut Ron Evans.
Evans was the commander of the Service Module that stationed in Lunar orbit awaiting the return of the Lunar Module. His watch was used for the control of time in an experiment to measure thermal variations within the Lunar ground in connection with a drilling performed by Cernan and Schmitt.
Back on Earth, Evans engraved in this watch an inscription attesting the participation of this instrument to the mission and to the heat experience, along with his signature.
The lot also includes a Velcro watch strap used by Evans during his extra-vehicular activity which was the very last EVA in lunar orbit of the Apollo program.
1972 We did not go to the Moon for Fun
2009 SOLD 206 K$ including premium
On July 16 in New York, Bonhams celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Apollo 11 through an auction devoted to space exploration.
The progression within the missions of the Apollo project was the most exciting sequence of innovations in the history of technological developments. Here are these steps:
Apollo 7, October 1968, the first Apollo flight.
Apollo 8, December 1968, Lunar orbit flight.
Apollo 9, March 1969, Lunar Module test around the Earth.
Apollo 10, May 1969, Lunar Module test around the Moon.
Apollo 11, July 1969 Moon landing and walk on the Moon.
These successes required a military organization and discipline. This is illustrated with the book of instructions used by Charles M. Duke in his extravehicular walks on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972. All he had to do was indicated, including the instructions in the event of an accident in his spacesuit.
It is composed of 29 sheets of 9 cm square, printed on plastic and spiral bound. They were attached to the wrist of the suit by a Velcro strip 45 cm long. This book has been contaminated by Lunar dust when the astronaut turned the pages with his glove. This remarkable characteristic allows now to expect K $ 200.
POST SALE COMMENT
The Bonhams sale, such as those previously made by Heritage, creates a new market sector. Top lots and values of the objects are not stabilized.
The Apollo 16 checklist book did not meet its estimate. It was sold 170 K$ before fees (206 K$ premium included). In light of my comment above, I consider that it is both a very good auction result and a very good deal for the buyer.
1977 The Space Stations
2014 SOLD 1 M€ before fees
The era of the space stations succeeded the lunar adventure. The Soviets had not challenged the Americans on the Lunar project, but they also did not take a technological backwardness. The programs Skylab and Salyut were developed simultaneously.
The concept of a permanent orbiting laboratory that can be occupied by a crew was new and so was the technique of transferring capsules for their mooring to the station and subsequent come back to Earth.
Some Salyut stations were made for military use. It was the Almaz program, on which very limited information was published at that time.
On May 7 in Brussels, Lempertz sells a VA capsule (Vozvraschaemyi Apparat) used in the Almaz program. This piece 2.20 m high and 2.80 m in larger diameter weighing 1.9 tons is estimated between US $ 1M and 2M. It could transport three cosmonauts or unmanned heavy equipment. Here is the link to the first pre-sale press release.
Sent into space in 1977 and 1978, this unit was certainly the first spacecraft that was reused. At that time NASA began developing their space shuttle.
It was confirmed before sale that its two missions were unmanned.
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good price for the space capsule : € 1M before fees.