First space shuttle flight insignia lead 1.1 million auction in Dallas

DALLAS  – It was the recent history of America’s mission to investigate the mysteries of the cosmos that led the way at Heritage Auction Galleries Space Exploration Auction in Dallas on April 1. Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1) Commander John Young’s flown flight suit patches commanded due respect on their way to realizing $56,750 from a dedicated Space collector.
The four patches were presented to Captain Young after Columbia’s historic flight of firsts: The first U.S. space flight since July 1975, the first flight of a reusable spacecraft, the first use of solid rocket fuels in a manned mission, and the first U.S. manned space vehicle launched without an unmanned powered test flight.
“Captain Young is the best of the best when it came to the second generation of American astronauts, as evidenced by the wide range of important missions he was chosen to lead,” said Michael Riley, Senior Cataloger and Chief Historian for Heritage. “The first Space Shuttle mission was a crowning achievement in the modern space exploration movement, as well as for Young’s storied career. That these important insignia would bring top dollar at this auction is testament to both these facts.”
The two Columbia crewmembers, Young and Pilot Robert Crippen, bravely took the new and amazingly complex Space Transportation System Shuttle on her shakedown cruise, which was not without some serious problems. They managed, however, to bring it home to a safe earth landing at Edwards Air Force Base (another first) after 37 orbits. Columbia went on to fly 26 more successful missions.
Results across the board consistently strong throughout the auction, proving the demand for space exploration memorabilia remains of strong interest to a great number of collectors despite the relatively limited amount of material to come out of America’s space program.
“Once again we were very gratified by the results of this category,” said Tom Slater, Director of History at Heritage. “Since the turmoil in the economy began last fall, Heritage has held a number of highly successful auctions, such as the sale of the John K. Lattimer Collection of Lincolniana and the John Henry Kurtz Civil War Collection. When presented with material of this quality, valued realistically, the market continues responding enthusiastically.”
Following the Columbia space suit patches, it was a trio of lots from the 1960s space program that commanded the top prices from collectors:
The Apollo 8 Flown CMP Checklist, an important link in humankind’s first trip to the moon, directly from the collection of Mission Command Module Pilot James Lovell, soared well above its initial $8,000-$10,000 estimate, eventually topping out at $47,800 and drawing spontaneous applause from the audience.
Another artifact from the collection of James Lovell, an Apollo 13 Flown Lunar Module Spacecraft identification plate display, a mission on which Lovell was Commander, brought $47,800 when the gavel came down. On April 17, 1970, two-and-a-half hours before the re-entry of the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft, Lovell and his crew had to climb back into the Command Module Odyssey to (hopefully) fire it back up for the final portion of the ride home. The Lunar Module Aquarius had to be jettisoned as it had no heat shield and was not designed to withstand the extreme heat generated during the plunge through Earth’s atmosphere. This plate would have flown to the moon’s surface in the Lunar Module Aquarius had the mission not been shortened due to the explosion on board.
Mission Commander John Young’s personal 18K Gold Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronograph, as presented to him in 1969 by the Omega Watch Company, brought $38,800. The watch carries the cachet of having been owned by an astronaut as well as being a fine piece of horology. It is often referred to as the first “moonwatch.” There are numerous photos available showing astronauts wearing their NASA-issue Omega Speedmasters during various spaceflights and moon landings.
Another astronaut timepiece also brought what is thought to be a record price for type: Roger Chaffee’s personal Timex watch, returned to his Family after his Death in Apollo 1, brought an amazing $19,120. The watch came to Heritage from Chafee’s family, and was one of two items returned to them after the astronaut’s untimely death.
“The $19,000 for a Timex is amazing,” said Jim Wolf, Director of Fine Watches at Heritage. “I would think it must be a world record for a Timex. As a watch, I have never seen one sell for more than a few hundred dollars.”
Not all the top lots were related specifically to the Space Program, as evidenced by a spectacular Vintage Photograph signed by 100 aviation and space travel pioneers, including six moonwalkers. Major James Adams, operations supervisor at Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport, assembled this outstanding collection of autographs beginning in the early 1930s. Names like Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, Amelia Earhart, Ted Williams, Wiley Post, Wally Schirra, Paul Tibbetts, Prince Phillip, Jimmy Doolittle and Jim Lovell are just a few on this list. The six moonwalkers included are Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Charles Conrad, Jr., Dave Scott, John Young, and Gene Cernan.
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