Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gemini Spacecraft Boilerplate

This is a very rare Gemini boilerplate that is a 1:1 scale model of the actual spacecraft. These boilerplates were made to train the astronauts, recovery crews, engineers and others, in all aspects of the Gemini spacecraft. The Gemini missions are often overlooked by many, but it was this program that taught NASA how do orbital mechanics, rendezvous between 2 spacecraft, long term spaceflight, walking in space, working in space and the other skills required to go to the moon and back.

A great website to see what happened to the US spacecraft and boilerplates is .

This Gemini boilerplate is serial number MSC 312, it was used by the 79th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron and it trained the Gemini recovery divers in the N. Calif ocean. It weighs 3500 lbs, it's 8.5' long, the heatshield area is 8' in diameter and I found it in a N. Calif. cemetery. It was common for the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo boilerplate models to be sold for scrap or given to schools or playgrounds, after the program was completed.

I wanted to keep it because it's such a rare artifact, but when I offered it to museums for a loan, nobody was interested, so I ended up selling it. My wife told me that if I bought it home, there better be enough room for a bed, because I would be moving into it. As a result, it's headed to a good home back east.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Neil Armstrong Vintage Autograph 1962

Neil Armstrong Vintage Autograph 1962

This is a pristine NASA glossy autographed photo of Neil Armstrong when he was first selected to be an astronaut in 1962. This photo was inscribed to the wife of Grant Lathe, who was a NASA graphic artist and a friend to the astronauts. A funny thing about this photo, it was one of the earliest photos he autographed after his selection as astronaut.
Neil signed this photo on the black suit, which doesn't show up well, unless you look at it from an angle. I've been told bya few long time collectors, that this was one of the first autographs Neil did on this photo, because he didn't realize that it wouldn't show up well. After this photo was autographed, Neil always signed over his head or under the NASA logo. Regardless, the autograph is a gorgeous example of his vintage signature.

Armstrong Autograph 1962-63

Neil Armstrong Vintage Autograph 1962-63

This is a pristine 1962 NASA glossy photograph of the 2nd group (The New Nine) of astronauts right after their selection in 1962 and it's signed by Neil Armstrong on the front and Tom Stafford on the back.

I bought the collection of Grant Lathe from his family at the 2006 San Antonio UACC show. Grant was a NASA graphic artist and a friend to all of the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo astronauts. There were hundreds of vintage signed photos in Grant's collection, as well as dozens of examples of early NASA concept drawings, many hundreds of NASA photos and publications.

The beautiful Santa Claus poster shown here was done by Grant before John Glenn's Friendship 7 mission.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Apollo 17 Flown Cereal Cube

Apollo 17 Flown Cereal Cube

Apollo 17 Flown Cereal Cube

I bought this from a guy on Ebay, who purchased the estate of a woman, that went into an assisted living home. The seller knew nothing about it, other than what was on the tag, which meant there was no historical provenance that it flew in space, let alone around the moon. When I contacted the seller about the history of this resin, he told me how to contact her family. They gave me this woman's number in the home and after calling a few times, I was able to talk with her.

When I spoke to this woman about the cereal cube, she told me the history about it and she was a sweetheart to talk to. We chatted for almost an hour, she was disappointed that her family sold it, considering how important it was to their father.
It turns out that her husband was an RCA engineer that helped teach the astronauts how to operate the electronics on the Apollo spacecraft. She told me stories about having many of the astronauts over for dinner when they were in town and how happy they were to have a home cooked meal. This delightful woman wrote me the nicest letter describing the provenance to this piece.
She told me that this cereal cube was her husbands pride & joy and that he had it displayed on his desk since receiving it in the 70's. This cereal cube was given to her husband by Ron Evans after the Apollo 17 mission and this RCA engineer created this resin display. The greatest aspect about this piece, besides being flown on Apollo 17, is that there are 6 layers of resin, which is a strong telltale sign that it's a vintage piece. Modern lucite and resin displays don't have visible layers in the piece, whereas the older resin pieces needed to dry, before adding another layer when embeding an item.
Another fun aspect about this piece is the mold that was used. The shape shows the gentleman used a Gerber baby food jar as a mold and it must have taken him 4-6 days to make this one piece. If you look carefully, you can see the seams on the sides of the resin from the Gerber glass jar.
I love home made resin pieces, because they show how the smallest artifact was held in such high esteem by the people who worked so hard to make the space program a success. I assume that this cereal cube only flew in lunar orbit with Ron Evans and that it didn't make it to the lunar surface.

Lunar Module Kapton Foil Cover

This is an 8" x 3.5" piece of Kapton foil that was made, but obviously not used, for a lunar module. This patch was made to cover over electric ports and other areas that the engineers needed access to, during the building of the lunar modules. When the LM was finished, these patches would cover over the access points to protect them from exposure to the suns heat in space and on the moon. There are 18 layers of Kapton foil on this patch, it's marked with the LDW 280 Grumman stock number and it's dated 1968.

I don't know which LM this was made for, but if you have anyway to find out by the LDW number, please let me know.

Lunar Module Kapton Foil Cover

Neodymium Glass Rod Flown on STS-51F Spacelab 2 ESA Experiment

This is a 6" x 1.5" piece of neodymium laser glass that flew as part of an STS-51F Spacelab 2 ESA experiment. I purchased this piece of glass rod, a crew signed photo and 4 other artifacts flown on this mission from a UK scientist who helped design and build these experiments.

Neodymium glass rods are the purest optical glass ever manufactured. Most of these are made by the Lawerence Livermore Labs and a 4 foot rod of this size sells for $100,000. This glass is designed to shoot lasers through for taking measurements and this piece was cut up upon returning to Europe and pieces given to scientists that worked on the experiments.

Enterprise Prototype Space Shuttle Tile Flown Backside

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Enterprise Prototype Space Shuttle Tile Flown

This is one of the original prototype HRSI tiles that was attached to the space shuttle Enterprise for the approach & landing tests. This tile came from one of the engineers who helped design the thermal protection system for the space shuttle orbiters. He removed it from the Enterprise after the ALT program was completed.

I've spoken with a few people about this tile and have been told that there were 10 of these prototype tiles installed on the Enterprise. They were all marked VT-70 engineering test and from the brown felt material attached to the white backside, it was attached to the vehicle, but I don't know where it was placed.

Apollo 11 Unengraved Robbins Medal

Apollo 11 Unengraved Robbins Medal

Here is one of the 9 or 10 of the unengraved Apollo 11 Robbins medals and it's # 163.

There's been a lot of stories floating around about it being stolen before it was flown, after it was flown or that it was simply an oversite by a Robbins worker during the engraving process. It's known that 9-10 consecutive numbered, unengraved, Apollo 11 Robbins medals exist and according to the Robbins medal expert Howard Weinberger, these may be the rarest pieces of the entire Robbins medals.

Ken Havecotte COA

Apollo 14 Flown Franklin Mint Coin # 70 of 200

Friday, August 1, 2008

Apollo 14 Flown Franklin Mint Coin # 70 of 200

Here is a very rare coin that was flown on the Apollo 14 mission in the Apollo command module.

The story goes that a dealer approached Alan Shepard about carrying 200 of these large Franklin Mint silver coins to the moon on Apollo 14 and in return, the crew would split 125 of the coins, with 25 going to the dealer and 50 going back to Franklin Mint. So Franklin Mint produced these 200 large silver coins, gave them to the dealer who gave them to Alan Shepard, who packed them away in the Apollo command module.

Upon returning from the moon, only 24 of these coins were returned to Franklin Mint, from which they melted and combined other silver to make the small Franklin Mint Apollo 14 Eyewitness coins on the blue cards, frequently seen selling for $10-30.

The dealer who set up the deal with Alan Shepard got his 25 coins, 1 coin went to a Texas museum and the rest of the 150 coins were split between the crew. This coin was given by Dr. Ed Mitchell to a friend of his and I'm having Dr. Mitchell write me a COA on it.

Neil Armstrong Paul Calle Poster

Here is my favorite modern Armstrong signed piece and I've been wanting this poster for years. I finally found one, it's in beautiful condition and now it's going to be taking a trip to the framers. Paul Calle printed 1000 of these posters of Neil Armstrong, while getting suited up for the Apollo 11 mission and from what I've heard, it was the last major signing by Neil. I just love the artistry, simplicity and focus on the image and to me, it's one of the best images from the Apollo program.

Luna 24 Russian Spacecraft that landed on the moon

I'm not usually a big fan of artifact cards like Spaceflori displays, unless it's the kapton pieces by Terry Slezak and others who removed the foil from the spacecraft first hand. For some reason I love this card that was made up by Paul Hartunian, mainly because it's a lunar surface flown piece, regardless if it was an unmanned Russian vehicle. I have 5-6 of these cards and where can you find an authentic lunar surface artifact for $40-100 ? When I do presentations at schools, the kids love holding something that's been on the surface of the moon and I don't have to worry that they'll break something that's a rare artifact.

Ron Evans Apollo 17 Flown Space Suit Drinking Device

Here is the plastic drink bag that has crumbled into hundreds of pieces and I'll be using these flown pieces to embed in a custom lucite with an edition of 200.

Ron Evans Apollo 17 Flown Space Suit Drinking Device

Ron Evans Apollo 17 Flown Space Suit Drinking Device

Ron Evans Apollo 17 Flown Space Suit Drinking Device

Ron Evans Apollo 17 Flown Space Suit Drinking Device

This is a very cool piece that I just bought from Astro Auction and I loved the fact that it came from Ron Evans family. The artifact is the velcro & straw (surgical tubing) of Ron Evans space suit drink bag that he carried on the Apollo 17 mission. Ron passed away in 1990 from a heart attack at the age of 56 and because he died so young, I think a lot of people have forgotten his place in history.

Ron was considered one of the nicest, most down to earth of the Apollo astronauts and he was also one of the funniest. Another fact about Ron is that he was the ONLY Apollo astronaut to fly in combat (7 months from the USS Ticonderoga in 1965-66) and fly an Apollo mission. Ron was also the last Apollo astronaut to walk in space during his 51 minute EVA to retrieve film and experiments from the service module.

I bought this piece because with this drinking straw, is the 32oz plastic drink bag that had deteoraited, into what looks like are small broken potato chips at the bottom of the bag. I'm going to be making up a tribute lucite to Ron and embedding pieces of this drink bag in the piece, with a description of the mission and of Ron's history.

I will NOT be cutting up the straw or velcro that held the bag securely in his space suit. Those will be going in a frame.

COA Kim Poor for Janet Evans

STS-1 BF Goodrich Flown Tire Display

STS-1 BF Goodrich Flown Tire Display

Here is a very nice chunk of the BF Goodrich presentation that was 1 of 100 given to VIP's. It comes on a nicely engraved wood plaque that has this tire section in a glass bulb. This piece measures 3" x 2", there are at least 20 layers of material & rubber that make up the cross section and it's always been a favorite piece of mine.

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moon & Mark II Watches

Here are my favorite 2 watches, an Omega Speedmaster Professional moon watch on the left, circa 2001 and an Omega Speedmaster Professional Mark II with the 861 movement on the right, circa 1969. The Omega Speedmaster Professional was the only watch approved for spaceflight by NASA, after passing some incredibly brutal tests.

The first Omega Speedmaster worn in space was Wally Schirra's on his Mercury Sigma 7 mission. The only other watches worn in space that weren't Omega SMP's, were Scott Carpenters Breitling Navitimer, Gordon Coopers Bulova Accutron as a backup to his Omega SMP, Jack Swigert's Rolex GMT and Dave Scott's Waltham Chronograph that he wore on the moon for his 3rd EVA, when his Omega SMP crystal popped off.

Interestingly, Neil Armstrongs Omega SMP wasn't the first watch on the moon, that honor went to Buzz Aldrin. When a lunar module timer stopped working, Neil left his Omega SMP in the lunar module so the crew would have a timer on board, in case anything happened to Buzz's watch. Buzz sent his Omega to the Smithsonian, but it was stolen on it's way there and has never surfaced.

Bulova badly wanted to be an offical NASA flight watch, but after many brutal tests that the Omega passed, the Bulova wasn't even close to being as well made and accurate, as the Omega. Still Bulova sued, lobbied, complained, campaigned and bitched to everyone that would listen, that Bulova should be on the moon. The only problem was that the Bulova was so poorly made, that it couldn't take the stresses of spaceflight.

The Bulova watch pictured here is a 1st year 1963 Accutron Astronaut with the coffin link bracelet and it's in mint condition.

I'm currently looking for an Omega SMP X-33, so if you know of a clean used one for sale, please let me know.

LBJ Stetson

LBJ Stetson

LBJ Stetson

LBJ Stetson

LBJ Stetson Beaver 3X Hat Signed by Astronauts for Houston Legislator

This is an extraordinary hat that was a gift from Lyndon Johnson to Texas state senator Criss Cole around 1968. This is a 1960's vintage Stetson Beaver 3X with a perfect leather hatband that shows it was never worn. It's signed by Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Gordo Cooper and Deke Slayton.

Someone on Collectspace posted they had seen a cowboy hat in a Ft. Collins, Co. thriftstore and that it was signed by some astronauts. I emailed the guy who posted and asked him for the name of the thriftstore and he responded immediately. I called the store, spoke to the manager, who told me that the hat was donated but that he had no history or provenance about it. The store manager told me the hat had been on display in his store for months and that he kept lowering the price, but still nobody wanted it. After sending me photos of the autographs, I forwarded them to Scott Cornish and he confirmed that they were authentic vintage signatures.

I ended up buying the hat and upon receiving it, I sent some friends pictures of it and it was a very unique piece. About 3 months go by, I put the hat in a box to protect it and in the closet it went. Someone got ahold of the pictures I sent out of the hat and asked me if I had checked under the hat band. It never crossed my mind to look under the hat band and when I did, I almost fell over from shock.

On one side written in pen under the hat band is "LBJ Gift" and on the other side is "Criss Cole". Obviously anyone who's into the Mercury, Gemini & Apollo programs knows that LBJ was a huge supporter of the space program, starting when he was vice-president under JFK. For all of LBJ's faults, he was the biggest reason this country was able to get to the moon before JFK's deadline. LBJ was known to give out Stetson and another brand of cowboy hat who's name escapes me, to supporters, visiting dignitaries and VIP's, as a symbol of LBJ's pride in Texas.

After speaking with the curator of the LBJ museum & library, there were about 50 or so cowboy hats that were signed by astronauts and then given out to supporters of the space program. The astronauts attending various events to drum up PR for the program, signed some of these Stetson hats, that were then given away.

The incredible part to this story is that the Houston legislator was Criss Cole (1918-1985) was an amazing man in his own right and to read his bio, please go to Mr. Cole joined the USMC in 1940 where he fought at the battles of Guadalcanal and was blinded by a Japanese grenade during the beach assault at Tarawa. If you're not familiar with USMC WW2 battle history, the battle of Tarawa was one of the most vicious and horrific battles of the entire pacific campaign against the Japanese.

Mr. Cole returned to Texas after recovering from his wounds where he finished high school, then attended night classes in law, eventually completing law school. Afterwhich Mr. Cole became an attorney specializing in juvenile law, then became a state rep, state senator, appointed as chief justice for the 315th circuit court dealing with kids and was a major civil rights leader in Texas.

I have tried to contact Mr. Cole's son, who's also an attorney in Houston, but he will not return my calls, so I haven't found out any other history about this hat.

I did send photos of this hat to the LBJ museum & library while trying to research the origins of it. Initally they were very interested in displaying it for 18 months during the 100th LBJ anniversary celebration. I was told by the curator of exhibits that this hat is authentic and very rare, but so far they haven't taken me up on my offer to loan it out to them for free.

Apollo 15 Flown Kapton Foil

Apollo 15 Flown Kapton Foil

Here are 2 large pieces of kapton foil that covered the outside of the Apollo 15 command module Endeavor, that carried Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden to the moon.

There's a great story about this piece, as with most pieces in my collection. The gentleman who collected this, was in the middle of a bitter divorce, he had bought the tickets for a Hawaii vacation before the breakup and decided to take the trip without his soon to be ex-wife.

While drowning his sorrows in a Honolulu bar, he started talking with another guy at the bar, who it turns out was one of the Apollo 15 recovery divers aboard the USS Okinawa, that had just docked the day before in Hawaii. After making friends with the Apollo recovery diver, this gentleman was asked if he wanted to go see the Apollo 15 command module that was sitting on the hanger deck of the aircraft carrier and he jumped at the chance. The recovery diver took him aboard the USS Okinawa, they went to the hanger deck and in one corner sat this tiny Apollo spacecraft with 1 USMC private guarding it.

The diver told the gentleman to help himself to a piece or 2 of foil, he chipped off a small piece of the heatshield and spent about 10-15 minutes looking inside through the open hatch, while asking questions. The recovery diver then gave this gentleman a Zippo ciggarette lighter with the Apollo 15 insignia shield on it that was presented to him by a congressman, then they left the ship. The diver gave away the Zippo because he didn't smoke and had no use for it.

Notarized letter on file.

Apollo 15 Flown Stowage Locker Description Tag

Apollo 15 Flown Stowage Locker Description Tag

This is an aluminum foil plate that was attached to a stowage locker door from the Apollo 15 command module that carried Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden to the moon from July 26- August 7, 1971.

The Apollo 15 misson was the first "J" mission that was able to stay on the lunar surface for 2 days 19 hours, allowing Scott & Irwin to conduct 3 moon walks and be the first mission to use the Lunar Rover.

This locker tag was removed by Jim Creagle who worked at North American Aviation and sold his extensive collection to Ricky Lanclos. This comes with both a Jim Creagle & Ricky Lanclos COA.

Gemini 8 Heatshield 4" w/paperwork

Gemini 8 Heatshield 4" w/paperwork

This is a 4" round section of the Gemini 8 heatshield. This piece, like all the other round sections I've seen, has a hole drilled in the center of it, almost like a coring saw that's used to cut holes for door knobs. These 4" round sections are the largest pieces I've seen from the GT-8 mission and at the San Diego Aerospace Museum, there is the opposite side trim piece of a cutout like this that matches perfectly.

I obtained this beautiful piece from the grandson of an MOL project manager, along with a mint condition Topping MOL model, 4 vintage Zippo lighters from the space program, all of this managers paperwork, awards, photos and commendations. This also comes with a very nice vintage hand written letter explaining the provenance of this piece, by the MOL manager. This heatshield was in a sealed bag from the 1960's and opened by me in 2005 after purchasing it. Notarized letter on file.

Gemini 8 Heatshield 1966 Lucite Display

Gemini 8 Heatshield 1966 Lucite Display

Here is a very rare vintage lucite that contains a piece of the Gemini 8 heatshield. This was 1 of 50 made by a gentleman who worked on the Gemini 8 spacecraft wiring harness at the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis. The front was broken off by this guys kids playing with it back in the 60's. What's really cool are the small windows that were part of the mold and they're located just below the broken nose. The mold used was not nearly as professional as the North American Aviation resin & lucite displays of the same vintage.

Gemini 8 was Dave Scott & Neil Armstrongs first spaceflight. It was the first docking of 2 spacecraft in space in history. Shortly after the Gemini 8 spacecraft docked with the Agena vehicle, both of them started a slow tumbling motion. Thinking that the Agena was the reason for the spinning, Armstrong & Scott undocked from the Agena, only to discover that it was the Gemini with a misfiring RCS thruster.

The flight had to be aborted when one of the Gemini's RCS thrusters malfunctioned, sending the spacecraft into a 1 RPS spin. The astronauts came within 10-20 seconds of passing out while tumbling on all 3 axis and they came closer to losing their lives in space, than any other crew, with the exception of the Apollo 13 astronauts. It took both pilots about 20-30 minutes to bring the spacecraft under control using their re-entry RCS thrusters, all while being out of touch from mission control.

There seems to be more heatshield material available from the Gemini 8 spacecraft, than any other Gemini mission. This is probably due to the GT-8 was the only Gemini spacecraft to have the entire heatshield removed, after returning to earth. This was done to reach the wiring harness, in an attempt to determine what caused the electric short in the RCS system. I've heard a few stories about the piles of broken GT-8 heatshield material being offered to anyone who wanted it. If only there really was a time machine !!!!

Apollo 11 Flown Kapton Foil

The other side of the Apollo 11 command module flown Kapton foil. Eventhough the gold side is almost always displayed on artifact cards, it was the silver side of the foil that was exposed to space.

Apollo 11 Flown Kapton Foil

Here are some pieces of flown kapton foil from the Apollo 11 command module Columbia, that carried Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to the moon & back. This piece was obtained by a sailor who was a Quartermaster on the USS Hornet when the Apollo 11 spacecraft was recovered on July 24, 1969. This sailor wrote me a very funny letter describing the horsetrading that went on between he and the NAA recovery crew.
Notarized letter on file.