Sunday, 28 September 2008

The final 3 missions.

This UK flag was flown to lunar orbit aboard Apollo 15 Command and Service Module "Endeavour" in July/August 1971. I recall as a spotty youth recording the 3 surface EVAs to a large reel to reel tape machine all the while imploring my parents to "shush". To this day the talking..... and the "shushing" can clearly be heard.

In 1974, on a private visit to the UK fellow Apollo 15 astronaut James B. Irwin presented Prime Minister Harold Wilson and "the people of the United Kingdom" with an identical flag. Jim had carried the flag to the moon in his own Personal Preference Kit.

This Apollo 16 betacloth was the first surface flown artifact I acquired more than 10 years ago. In October 2012 I was afforded an opportunity to reacquaint Charlie with the mission emblem that meant so much to him.

Charlie was kind enough to illustrate the location of the beta cloth patch for the duration of his stay on the moon.

Autographica 2007 was I believe the first time Gene Cernan had seen one of his Challenger flown navigational charts framed and beautifully presented courtesy of Novaspace Galleries. He was so impressed he spent the next 10 minutes showing it to his assistant and explaining the various features, numbers and notations.

Gene Cernan. The last man to walk on the moon, in a classic image from Apollo 17, December 1972.

Fallen Astronaut.

In April 1972, during CBS Apollo 16 launch coverage, sculptor Paul van Hoeydonck confirmed to Walter Cronkite that he was the artist responsible for the memorial sculpture known as the ”Fallen Astronaut”.  Placed on the lunar surface nine months previous, the crew of Apollo 15 had insisted that the name of the artist remain a secret for a year at least.

Following the revelation and in an attempt to boost the fortunes of the struggling Waddell Gallery in New York, owner Dick Waddell… in conjunction with van Hoeydonck, decided to offer a signed limited edition series of 950 “Fallen Astronaut” replicas to collectors at $750 each… with the intention of creating a second, cheaper series.

This was contrary to Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott’s understanding of his “gentleman’s agreement” with the artist  - that there was to be no commercialisation of the piece. That however was not Paul van Hoeydonck’s recollection and production of the signed and numbered pieces continued… until that is NASA officials intervened.

Pressure on van Hoeydonck, Dick Waddell and Bruce Gitlin at Milgo/Bufkin (the manufacturer of the original piece and the limited edition) brought a premature end to the project.  Allegedly only 50 of the 950 replicas were made.

Paul van Hoeydonck retained all 50, gifting the majority to museums. One replica was given to the National Air and Space Museum and another to the King of Belgium. None were ever sold….or so we have been led to believe.

In April 2015, evidence to the contrary emerged when a replica purporting to be one of the limited edition was offered for sale on ebay. Numbered 200/950 the figure was offered for sale by the grandson of the late James T.Phillips Jr – an investment banker for J.P. Morgan based in New York and a collector of space artefacts and works of art. Mr Phillips had the means, the motive and the opportunity to make such a purchase.

Compelling evidence supporting its authenticity included a receipt of purchase from the Waddell Gallery and an accompanying certificate of authenticity signed by the artist Paul van Hoeydonck.

This find poses many questions not least how many were actually made and of those, how many were sold? Paul van Hoeydonck insists only 50 of the 950 replicas were completed and he can account for them all… suggesting perhaps that others were sold without his knowledge.

Sadly, gallery owner Dick Waddell passed away in 1974 aged just 50. Depression, divorce and financial worries had taken their toll.

Perhaps Dick Waddell had sold some privately in an attempt to alleviate his personal demons? Correspondence with the manufacturer has drawn a blank. Neither Bruce Gitlin nor Milgo/Bufkin is willing or able to confirm the numbers actually produced.

But when questioned about the replica figure exhibited by the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C,  the museum confirmed … “Stamped into the back of the head are the marks "c 1971." Marks that match all known authorised replicas… and this ebay find.

The artist himself is unwilling at this time to comment on the replica in question… pending the outcome of his own investigations. But it is evident that the controversy surrounding the work remains an irritation to this day.I doubt we will ever know for sure how many of the planned replicas were completed and subsequently sold but indications are that there may be more out there than we have been lead to believe.

Skylab and beyond.

Alan Bean proudly displays the US flag that traveled with all three crews for the duration of the manned Skylab program.

A piece of Skylab debris recovered from Esperance Shire, Western Australia. With help from NASA, Australian authorities were able to eastablish that this piece was cut from a lightweight structural beam the rest of which....

... was gifted to the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C.

This flown embroidered patch was carried on the historic joint US-Soviet ASTP mission in 1975 by Commander Tom Stafford.

Tom then gifted the patch to his close friend and Apollo 10 crew mate Gene Cernan and it remained in his possession until I purchased the piece at a Novaspace Gene Cernan "Garage Sale".

This US flag was flown aboard the test shuttle orbiter "Enterprise" on one of her many drop tests in the late 1970s. Fred was the commander on one such flight and he was happy to pose with this "Approach and Landing Special Award" typically given to NASA employees in recognition of their contribution to the flight test program.

The launch of STS-1. The first space bound shuttle flown by Commander John Young and pilot Robert Crippen. The beginning of a new chapter in maned space exploration.  


Commemorative US flag, flown aboard the first space shuttle mission - STS-1

On the face of it two shuttle thermal protection tiles. The tile with the "VT" number is I believe a test or engineering tile. The other, with the "VO" number, was likely attached and possibly flown on an orbiter. Remnants of the red silicone caulk adhesive used to attach the tile to the orbiter are still evident.

These silica tiles are used extensively on each orbiter providing effective yet light weight protection for the delicate aluminium skin of the vehicle.

Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation (AFRSI) blankets were developed after the orbiter Columbia was built. AFRSI blankets consist of sewn composite quilted fabric insulation that is sandwiched between two layers of white fabric that are sewn together to essentially form a quilted blanket. This piece was a sample provided to media in the Cape Canaveral area.

AFRSI blankets were used extensively on the orbiter upper surfaces.

This display is a commercially produced piece using Thermal Protection material, flown in shuttle Columbia's payload bay on one or more ocassions between 1981 and 1986.

NASA, in support of bringing the Olympics to Houston — home of Mission Control and the U.S. astronaut corps — launched aboard Atlantis 1,000 lapel pins for the Houston 2012 Foundation.  The eventual winner of the Olympic bid for 2012 was London.