Captivating space photographs and ephemera are auctioned


An iconic portrait of famed NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon and the first earthrise seen by humans from the lunar surface in 1968 are among 1,200 photographs and ephemera up for virtual sale Feb. 22 at Dreweatts, an auction house in Donnington, England. The rare pieces come from the collection of the late British journalist Tim Furniss, who between 1984 and 2006 was International flight magazine’s spaceflight correspondent, and are auctioned off by his son, Thomas Furniss.

the portrait d’Aldrin (estimated at £8,000-£12,000 or $10,872-$16,308), the second man on the moon, was captured by Neil Armstrong, who beat him to the moon and whose reflection can be seen in his subject’s helmet. The Lunar Lander Eagle – the spacecraft that helped Apollo 11 land safely on the moon – is also visible in Aldrin’s face mask. Taken on July 20, 1969, the photo instantly became iconic, appearing on the cover of The life magazines and reproduced worldwide. Aldrin himself later commented that he remembered the moon more from those photographs than from his memories.

Neil Armstrong, “Iconic ‘visor’ portrait of Buzz Aldrin by Neil Armstrong” (1969), large format vintage chromogenic print

Another image that has quickly imposed itself on the collective consciousness is that of a Photo of the Earth rising above the moon’s horizon on Christmas Eve 1968. Captured in color by Apollo 8 crew members during their first orbit of the moon, the photo depicts the surface gray and cratered moon in front and a crescent of Earth in the distance. The photo, estimated at £4,000-6,000 or $5,435-8,153, channeled the spirit of human triumphalism during a tumultuous political era while also marking the ominous beginnings of humanity’s ability to see his own house from above. It was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as Armstrong so aptly put it.

Viking 1, the first color photograph taken from the surface of Mars (1976), vintage chromogenic print

Other lots feature objects that are less immediately recognizable, but offer a fuller picture of the oddities, scientific studies, and broader culture of space exploration at the end of the 20th century. A impression of the first color photograph taken from the surface of Mars in July 1976 shows rugged terrain strewn with rocks, appearing in a magenta hue. The photo was taken the day the Viking 1 landed on Mars, the first unmanned spacecraft to do so.

Laika, the first animal to orbit the Earth (1957), vintage silver print

A diptych of photographs lovingly remembers the life of Laika, a stray husky-spitz mix sent into space by the Soviet Union on the Sputnik 2 and the first animal to orbit the Earth in 1957. Sadly, she died shortly after liftoff. Armed with sensors and fitted with a spacesuit, Laika, who scientists knew would be doomed, was launched into space as part of a test to determine if manned spaceflight was feasible. Between 1951 and 1966, the Soviet Union dogs attached to spaceships 71 times. A Photo which tells a story with a happier ending captures Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, cupped by gloved human hands. Miss Baker was the first animal to survive spaceflight in 1959 and, after retirement, eventually lived to be 27.

John Sentovic, “NASA’s Very First Concept for a Space Station by Krafft Ehricke de Convair” (1958), vintage silver print

A NASA concept as a space station was simulated even before the energy was later focused almost solely on directing a mission to the moon. Illustrated by John Sentovic, the space station was designed by Krafft Ehricke, assistant to the technical director of Convair, a division of General Dynamics Corporation, and made the cover of spaceflight. Designed to accommodate four people, it promised the possibility of short-term human existence in space. The slick, geometrically art deco style of the illustration embodies the technological aspirations of the era, albeit a bit rudimentary in its engineering and design.

“Take off, Apollo 16” (1970), large format vintage chromogenic print

Finally, a remarkable meditative photograph tempers the adrenaline of take-off by framing it with the curvature of a gnarled tree trunk resting in a pond. Two birds even fly on the horizon. Its unique composition suggests a fix to the Cold War-era space race that tinged the human spirit of exploration with a dark and belligerent streak.


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