REDLANDS, Calif. – As governments and private entities fast-track their goal to explore and colonize space, interest in images documenting the earliest days of space exploration has increased by leaps and bounds. A rare opportunity to acquire 1960s/’70s NASA photos and prints of Apollo astronauts working on the Moon, ultraviolet shots of Earth from the Moon, and shots of the Moon’s terrain itself, will take place on December 1 as Redlands Antique Auction sells a collection that has been quietly stored and unpublicized for 40 years. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
NASA-stamped images were given to young intern at US Geological Survey’s Flagstaff (Ariz.) campus during 1980s clear-out and have remained in storage ever since
The owner of the NASA photographs and prints – which are mostly from the pioneering Apollo Moon missions – is an individual who came into possession of them in the 1980s while interning at the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology (USGSA) Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“The campus there consisted of six different buildings. One of them, situated across from the USGSA, was NASA oriented. NASA had chosen that particular location because, of all areas of the United States, the terrain around Flagstaff compares most closely to that of the moon. One of the Apollo rovers was actually built there at the Flagstaff location,” said Redlands’ auctioneer and co-owner Ron Curran.
“The consignor just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the NASA employees did a clear-out with intentions of throwing the photos away. Before discarding them, they offered the photos to any of the interns who might want them. That’s how our consignor acquired them, and he kept them safely stored away until now,” Curran continued.
The first 100 lots are original photographs on Kodak paper, while the second half of the sale consists of prints on GAF paper. Each of the photos or prints has an original NASA “stamp” or identification along with a red or black dot and number that corresponds to the sequence of a particular NASA photographic series.
“There are websites that religiously track the photos known to exist from various NASA series,” Curran said. “We spent nearly two weeks researching the photos in the December 1st auction selection, and there are some that cannot be found anywhere else. We think those photos, in particular, will be of great interest to collectors who aspire to own a complete series.”
Curran noted that early NASA photos are of interest to a variety of people: those who collect space memorabilia or Americana, photography enthusiasts, and history buffs. “They’re very desirable for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are old-school photos. When NASA photography went digital, they stopped taking photos in the traditional manner. Considering how many photos are likely to have been thrown away by NASA, and based on the low number of photos that probably have survived, fewer discoveries like this collection are likely to be made.”
Among the top prizes in the auction are an Apollo 15 photo of James B Irwin (1930-1991) with the Lunar Rover, Lunar Module, and a planted American Flag against a background showing Mt Hadley Delta (see image at top of page). A chromogenic print on fiber-based Kodak paper, the 8 x 10-inch photo has a red NASA mark and series number on the top margin. It is broadly estimated at $20-$2,000.
Some photos display images one would expect to see in sci-fi films, like the Apollo 15 photo of “Man’s First Wheels on the Moon, Delivered by Falcon, July 30, 1971.” Along with NASA markings, the photo bears the signatures of the three members of the crew. Another artful example is a photo of the Moon Rover console. Both photos carry individual estimates of $20-$2,000.
There are many photos of the mountains and surface of the moon, including an unusual one that is identified as “Photo of items left on the Moon.” The annotation, presumably written by Astronaut Irwin explains, “There were a number of things we left on the Moon purposely. I left some medallions, flat pieces of silver with the fingerprints of Mary and our children. And as a result of a letter that I got two months before launch, I also left a small portrait of [self].” The auction estimate is $20-$2,000.
“The online catalog deserves a thorough study,” Curran said, “because every photo tells its own story, whether it is an image of a lunar eclipse or some other view created by the Moon’s position relative to the Sun at some particular moment.”
Redlands’ December 7, 2022 Voyage to Space auction will begin at 1PM US Eastern time, with absentee and online bidding exclusively through LiveAuctioneers.com. For additional information on any photograph in the sale, call 909-798-1177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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