Bonhams auction house in New York is preparing for the seventh annual Space History auction where a vast and intriguing collection of space memorabilia will be offered for sale, including items flown on Apollo, Mercury, Gemini, and Soyuz along with components and souvenirs of a range of other manned and unmanned missions. A highlight of the auction will be a bevy of items belonging to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, some of which flew with him in space and to the moon. Slated for 21 April, the auction will showcase over 350 rare objects and collectibles – there's even a real spacesuit or two up for grabs.
The previous Bonhams' space auction in 2014 was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first unmanned test of NASA's project Gemini. This time around, the auction is aimed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first American spacewalk by Ed White on Gemini 4. A highlight of this auction, then, will be the 13-page checklist from this very same mission, replete with bloodstains resulting from White’s struggle to close the Gemini hatch at the end of his EVA. This exceptionally rare set of documents is expected to fetch US$80,000-120,000.
Other flown items include much of the rather extensive range of trinkets, jewellery, and souvenirs that rode with Alan Bean – some of which he took along "unofficially" – on Apollo 12 to the moon. Of the more conventional NASA-supplied items, there are a waist strap from Bean’s portable life support system that is smeared with lunar dust, a water gun (that could be used to rehydrate dried food or be re-tasked to act as a fire extinguisher in emergencies), and a framed, unopened meal pack from the mission, complete with a set of stainless steel spoons. All of these items have pre-sale estimates of between $60,000 and $90,000.
If you fancy some real, hardcore space equipment, there are also quite a few shards of larger parts from various missions (some even covered with real moon dust!) or – if you're feeling really adventurous – a rocket engine or two. The Soviet air-to-air missile engine (at an estimated $6,000-9,000) from the second stage of a V750-VN missile being one notable example.
There are also a number of Apollo units to choose from, including a command module bi-propellant Rocketdyne engine from one of 12 originally used for such things as rotation control, rate damping, and attitude control. According to the Bonhams catalog, it has been test fired a number of times too, which, at a guide price of $8,000-12,000, is reassuring.
If your desktop is looking a little empty, you may want to bid on one of the many space models on offer. There's everything from a Rockwell X-30 spaceplane proposal at an estimated $3,000-5,000, through to a 30 in (760 mm) tall Saturn 1B slated to fetch $8,000-12,000, and on to a very large model of the giant Soviet Energia-2 Uragan heavy-lift designed for the ill-fated Buran space shuttle project. It's a whopping 65 in (1,650 mm) high, and could be yours for an estimated $12,000-18,000.
If it's a real spaceship (or close to it) you're after, you could always put in a bid on the original boilerplate version of the Gemini space capsule that was used for such things as flotation and balance testing. Who knows, you could use it to make a mold for your very own capsule from it. However, at around 7.5 ft (2.3 m) wide and weighing in at about 3,500 lb (1,600 kg), you may need a crane to lift it and something large to transport it in. Your wallet would also need to be rather sizable too, because it is estimated to achieve somewhere in the region of $40,000-50,000 at auction.
Of course, if you are planning a trip into space in the near future, or making a realistic science fiction movie, you may want to think about the real, mission-flown spacesuit on offer. Worn by Kenneth Bowersox on his ISS mission, this spacesuit has some real stellar cred with its full complement of helmet, shoes, and gloves along with all the mission insignia in all the right places. And it could be yours for a pre-sales estimated $30,000-50,000.
The range on offer at the Bonhams auction is a truly astounding array of items from the many phases of space history and across a range of missions. With many of the pieces having been signed by original flight crew, flown in space, or both, the history contained in these items is almost palpable. An important and significant auction for space enthusiasts, historians, and museum curators alike, the Bonhams space auction looks set to sell on many pieces never before made available to the public.
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