Suit up for Bonhams' Space Race collectibles auction
If you've just realized your wardrobe is lacking a spacesuit, fear not. On July 20, Bonhams is holding its eighth annual Space History auction in New York City, which will feature not one, but two near-complete spacesuits. The sale of items from the start of the Space Race to the End of the Cold War will also include artifacts that flew on Apollo 11 and the Soviet Soyuz and Salyut missions, as well as plaster casts of the hands of 15 Apollo-era astronauts, such as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
As with the previous Space History auctions, this year's is a mixture of show stoppers, presentation models, photographs, documents, memorabilia, autographs, and spacecraft components – some of which have flown in space or were used in ground tests. Some of these command estimated prices of up to US$40,000. Here are some highlights.
Sputnik 1 Replica
Some of this year's top items date right back to the start of the Space Race between the United State and the Soviet Union, including an extremely rare, full-scale, vintage test-model of the Soviet Sputnik 1 satellite. Sputnik 1 was the first manmade object to orbit the Earth when it was launched on October 5, 1957 and remained there until it burned up on reentering the Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958.
According to Bohams, the model is a fully-operational version of the satellite complete with a still-working transceiver. Made to test ground Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Electromagnetic Interference, it's one of only four known period-replicas of Sputnik 1 and is expected to fetch $10,000 to $15,000.
Soyuz 3 Space Navigation Indicator
Another top-tier offering is a space navigation indicator that flew on the manned Soyuz 3 mission on October 26, 1968. The unit was used by Cosmonaut Boris Volynov to track his orbit using a small plastic globe of the Earth as an indicator as he made an unsuccessful attempt to dock with the unmanned Soyuz 2 spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
The estimated price is $30,000 to $40,000.
Sokol KV-2 Spacesuit
For those with more sartorial tastes, Bonhams is also putting up a Sokol KV-2 "Falcon" spacesuit worn by NASA astronaut and flight engineer Don Pettit during the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 6 in 2002-2003. The bespoke suit, expected to go for $25,000 to $35,000, was designed to protect Petit in the event of a sudden depressurization of the Soyuz TMA-1 space capsule that carried him to and from the station.
One of the first US astronauts to return to Earth after the Columbia disaster that grounded the US Space Shuttle fleet, Petit's landing was marred by a malfunction that sent the Soyuz re-entry capsule 276 mi (444 km) off course to crash-land in Kazakhstan, where he and his crewmates were picked up by ground rescue teams several hours later.
US Navy Mark IV Mod 2 Pressure Suit
Space history buffs will know the Mark IV better as the Project Mercury spacesuit, which flew on the first American manned orbital missions in the early 1960s. Originally developed in the 1950s to protect high-altitude pilots, its compact design was chosen for the Mercury flights and was then given its distinct silver coating and other modifications for spaceflight.
It's estimated to fetch between from $6,000 and $9,000.
The spacesuits worn by the Apollo astronauts were hand tailored for each individual. Since suits for walking on the Moon are a lot more complicated that the average dinner jacket, such protective garments required a lot of fittings and the special gloves were the most difficult to get right. Because astronauts tend to rather busy, NASA took plaster casts of their hands for the contractors to work with.
Bonhams has plaster casts of the right hands of 15 NASA astronauts, including those of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with the collection expected to fetch $6,000 to $9,000. Each has its own wooden base and identifying name plaques, so games of "Whose hand is this?" should be easy.
Gemini 133P Trainer Assembly
Built by Burtek, Inc for McDonnell Corp, this simulator consisting of five panels is essentially a duplicate of the interior controls of a Gemini capsule and was used for astronaut training at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas in 1963. Its purpose was to familiarize the Gemini crews with the spacecraft's Attitude control and Maneuver Electronics System (ACME), the Orbit Attitude Maneuvering System (OAMS), the Time Reference System, the Sequential Circuits, and the Power Source, as well as the landing and post-landing procedures.
It's estimated to fetch $60,000 to $90,000.
Apollo 11 Navigational Chart
Another highlight of the auction is a photo-navigation chart used by Buzz Aldrin during the landing of the Lunar Module Eagle on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Made of a series of photos pieced together, the chart covers the flight path of the Lunar Module during the final approach to the landing site in the Sea of Tranquility. It's inscribed, "Carried in Eagle to the lunar surface on Apollo XI" by Aldrin and has an estimated price of $25,000 to $35,000.
Navigational Celestial Globe from Soyuz 18
Navigation on Soviet space missions tended toward the basic side and one common piece of equipment was a celestial globe, such as this one used by cosmonaut Pyotr Klimuk aboard Soyuz 18 in 1975. A rotating black alloy globe with back-lit holes for stars, it acted as a backup for ground-based navigation data as the craft ferried the second and last crew for the Salyut 4 space station.
It has an estimated price of $30,000 to $40,000.
NASA Flight Simulator Chair
What looks at first glance like a common office is actually a simulator built for the Johnson Space Center in Houston to train astronauts for the Space Shuttle program. The "robotics chair" has a pair of controllers and could either be used to simulate operation of the "Canadarm" robotic arm used to manipulate satellite payloads, or the Shuttle's maneuvering thrusters to simulate docking operations.
It should bring $2,000 to $3,000.
Model of Early Soviet Lunar Direct Ascent Spacecraft
This unusual item is a 1:41 scale model of a manned spacecraft designed to fly directly from the Earth to the Moon's surface without any orbital rendezvouses with another ship. Never built, the lander would have required a very large rocket similar to the US Saturn V or the Soviet N-1 to launch.
It's a bargain at an estimated $1,000 to $1,500.
A few other items included in the auction can be seen in the image gallery.
The Space History auction will be held on July 20 and run from 10:00 to 12:00 pm EDT with previews beginning on July 16.