Wernher von Braun archive ready for takeoff at RR Auction, April 19

A spread from the ‘Collier’s’ magazine series titled ‘Man on the Moon: The Exploration.’ RR Auction image

BOSTON – An amazing archive of signed drawings, diagrams, charts and letters by Dr. Wernher von Braun concerning his pioneering ‘Man Will Conquer Space Soon’ series will be auctioned RR Auction on Thursday, April 19. The fully illustrated catalog can be viewed on LiveAuctioneers.

The archive is composed of a total of 26 items that include 17 drawings and schematics, two orbital diagrams, four calculations and graph plots, and three autographed letters. All relate to four of the Collier’s articles: ‘Crossing the Last Frontier,’ ‘Man on the Moon: The Journey,’ ‘Man on the Moon: The Exploration,’ and ‘Baby Space Station,’ which appeared in the magazine between 1952 and 1954. Also includes the four issues of Collier’s magazine associated with the items in the archive.

Von Braun prepared the original drawings in this archive as reference materials for magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman and Rolf Klep, and most are evident as the direct inspiration for the illustrations that grace the pages of Collier’s in the ‘Man Will Conquer Space Soon!’ series.

A fantastic sketch of the ‘Round Trip Ship’ destined to bring man to the moon, which served to inspire Chesley Bonestell’s cover artwork for ‘Man on the Moon: The Journey.’ RR Auction image

Von Braun’s skillful drawings are filled with engineering detail to provide the Collier’s illustrators with scientifically accurate renderings of the spaceships of the future.

In its introduction to the series, Collier’s makes clear: “What you will read here is not science fiction.” Von Braun’s vision was not only fantastic, but scientifically viable—his copious scientific notes and calculations are proof.

A few highlights from the archive:

—Detailed signed drawings for the three-stage rocket described in ‘Crossing the Last Frontier,’ including its nose section and exhaust system. Von Braun would later serve as the chief architect of the Saturn V, the rocket that brought man to the moon, which used a similar three-stage design.

—A fantastic sketch of the “Round trip ship” destined to bring man to the moon, which served to inspire Chesley Bonestell’s cover artwork for ‘Man on the Moon: The Journey.’

—A page of von Braun’s calculations for propellant volumes necessary for “landing on the moon.”

—A crude sketch of a tracked “Moon Transport” vehicle, as described in ‘Man on the Moon: The Exploration.’

—Comprehensive diagrams and schematics for the solar power plant of the ‘Baby Space Station’ and its ground support trailers.

—A lengthy autograph letter about the land-based ‘Headquarters’ for the ‘Baby Space Station,’ describing the layout and equipment inside.

A crude sketch of a tracked ‘Moon Transport’ vehicle, as described in ‘Man on the Moon: The Exploration.’ RR Auction image

The Collier’s series drew widespread attention to von Braun’s vision of manned spaceflight—after the success of the first issue, he appeared on TV and radio shows around the nation to discuss the subject. He was soon recruited by Walt Disney and served as a technical advisor for three TV films about space exploration between 1955 and 1957. These broadcasts brought the idea of the space program into American living rooms nationwide.

For the first time, Americans had a vision of space travel not out of Buck Rogers, but grounded in scientific reality as envisioned by the central figure of the coming Space Age.

Walt Disney (left) visited Wernher von Braun, then Chief, Guided Missile Development Operation Division at Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, in 1954. In the 1950s, von Braun worked with Disney Studio as a technical director, making three films about space exploration for television. A model of the V-2 rocket is in the background. Image courtesy NASA

Among other items to be featured:

—Tom Stafford’s Apollo 10 lunar orbit flown American flag.

—Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 lunar surface-flown double star chart (below).

—Gene Cernan’s Apollo 17 lunar surface-used rover map.

—Space Shuttle external tank nose cone assembly complete with aerospike.

Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 lunar surface-flown double star chart. RR Auction image

The Space and Aviation Auction from RR Auction will conclude on April 19. For information, visit the RR Auction website at www.rrauction.com.