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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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DECADES LATER, ARMSTRONG'S SMALL STEP STILL INSPIRES

DECADES LATER, ARMSTRONG'S SMALL STEP STILL INSPIRES
Photograph; Apollo 11; crew signed official NASA color print; further inscribed & signed by Aldrin; 8 by 10 inches; sold for $39,100. Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries
It wasn’t really about one man setting foot on the moon but an entire nation. The American astronaut Neil Armstrong would be that man.

No other astronaut had his experience. The Apollo 11 would be his spaceship. Being first was the trophy on July 20, 1969.

With seconds to spare before colliding with the moon, Armstrong set the Eagle (spacecraft) down on level ground. The important objective for the mission, the landing, had been accomplished. For the millions watching on TV, it would be the precise moment when Armstrong set foot on the moon.

The soil was like powdered charcoal, apart from a few rocks and small craters in the near-distance, the horizon was featureless. The sky was jet-black.

With a nod to his partner Buzz Aldrin and with one hand firmly gripping the ladder, Armstrong turned and sank his left boot into the dust.

In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, Armstrong had the strength of Hercules and the awe of Moses.

“Magnificent desolation” is how Aldrin described it about 11 minutes later. The world was watching. The long race to the moon was over. Every technical and managerial obstacle in placing a man on the moon had been overcome. The word impossible was no longer in the vocabulary of these space pioneers.

Some people feel compelled to own something that ties them, even fragilely, to space travel. Anything that stirs this much passion is going to eventually show up on the auction block.

The United States allowed memorabilia to be saved from flights into the 1960s. Small fragments of heat shields, parachute materials and personal items the astronauts carried with them like patches, flags and pins are examples.

Knowing someone connected with the flight is all you needed to obtain something. That changed after Apollo 15. Tighter restrictions were placed on property. Souvenir collections stalled. However, astronauts, upon retirement, were still able to sell their possessions as they pleased.

There is a pecking order in space collectibles. Items most in demand are those that have flown to the surface of the moon. Items that orbited the moon come in at a close second. Flight hardware is always desirable and “flown” objects from the earlier Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts are also in demand.

Prices go up and down so collectors often recommend that you buy out of your love for the field versus investment potential. Much of what comes on the market today is recycled from existing collections.

On April 12, 2003, Swann Galleries, New York, featured its first Space Exploration auction.

Many of the items came directly from the astronauts or their families. Some 50 flown items were offered of which several landed on the moon. Here are some current values.

Space Exploration

Spacecraft model; Mercury; made by Topping Inc., for the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation; 1963; inscribed and signed by Gordon Cooper; 10 inches long approximate; $4,140.

Flown crew patch; Apollo 12; cloth patch displayed in metal frame mounted on a typed letter signed by mission commander Charles Conrad; patch was taken to lunar surface; 4 inch patch; $11,500.

Flown navigational chart; Apollo 11; photographic film section chart; extremely rare cartography artifact; inscribed and signed by Aldrin; 8 inches by 10 inches; $25,300.

Flown U.S. flag; Apollo 11; together with NASA certificate signed by Buzz Aldrin; mounted on 10 inch by 12 inch certificate; $29,900.

Photograph; Apollo 11; crew signed official NASA color print; further inscribed and signed by Aldrin; 8 inches by 10 inches; $39,100.

Flown data card book; Apollo 11; where Armstrong and Aldrin recorded critical data to enable spacecraft maneuvers; 16 numbered pages; 8 inches by 10 1/2 inches approximate; $222,500.

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