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Space Age Collectibles Go on the Block
by Bob Brooke

 

Fantastic vintage NASA photographs from outer space will go on the auction block at Bloomsbury Auctions in London later this month. Although they aren’t the first space memorabilia to go up for auction, they are some of the most spectacular. All are vintage Kodaks----itself now a collectible since the company’s downturn in recent years. Auctioneers at Bloomsbury expect the photos to sell for $462 to over $15,000.

The auction will showcase 600 visuals of U.S. Space Program history, everything from Buzz Aldrin’s first "selfie" in outer space to an abstract portrait of an eclipse to panoramic views of lunar canyons.

One of the more memorable offerings is from 1969, the year Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the Moon. The historic photo that everyone remembers is of Aldrin on the Moon. It wasn't until 20 years after Armstrong became a lunar hero that NASA discovered a sharp image of him, taken by Aldrin, standing near the lunar module. Like so many other images, it got stashed in a NASA archive at the space agency’s headquarters in Houston. Before that, NASA believed the only photos from the lunar surface were blurry shots grabbed by the astronauts using a TV camera and a 16 mm motion picture camera.

The photos in this auction showcase the golden age of space travel. Besides showing U.S. astronauts acting a bit like the first tourists on the Moon—which they were—they also show other-worldly scenes from outer space, far beyond Earth.

Beyond Aldrin's impressively composed image, the auction offers a number of photos by other astronauts, from John Glenn, the first man to venture into space to Eugene Cernan, the last man to trek to the moon to Ed White, who documented his 1965 space walk during NASA’s Gemini 4 mission.

Many photos in this auction were unknown to the public until NASA’s photographic archive began appearing on the Internet. Included are crude handmade panoramic shots of the lunar landscape taken with the then state-of-the-art Hasselblad cameras, then pieced together by NASA scientists to use in their research. Today, digital panoramic shots are available on many smart phones. Just imagine if the astronauts had a Samsung phone with them at the time.

Just recently, the wife of the late Neil Armstrong discovered a stash of space memorabilia that he had stuck in a closet. Fortunately, this group of objects went to the National Air and Space Museum and not to auction. What was junk back then is important memorabilia today. Included in the packet was the camera Armstrong used to take some of the photos in this auction. To Armstrong, it was just a bag of trash.

Space collectibles are the newest wave in high tech memorabilia to attract knowledgeable and deep-pocketed collectors. Not only are they important collectibles. They’re also important pieces of history that is still in the making.


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