It was humankind’s most momentous accomplishment, setting two astronauts on the surface of the moon for the first close-up glimpse of another celestial body.
In the minutes after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down aboard the Apollo 11 landing module, Nasa had strict plans for the pair — and allowing them to enjoy the view was not among them.
“Close shades,” the step-by-step instruction manual ordered. It was a directive that they defied as they gazed out of the window at what Aldrin would later describe as a scene of “magnificent desolation”.
The manual, complete with the astronauts’ handwritten jottings, calculations and specks of lunar dust, is the star lot at an auction in New York commemorating next month’s 50th anniversary of the landing. It is expected to sell for up to $9 million (£7.1 million). “Move to position on ladder . . . Descend ladder to foot-pad . . . Step to surface,” the manual also instructs, spelling out Armstrong’s first moves on the moon like a choreographed ballet.
“This book is a unique witness to the first manned lunar landing, one of the most glorious adventures of all time,” according to Christie’s auction house. “No more significant document of space exploration history is ever likely to be created.”
The auction, in New York on July 18, is one of several offering mementoes from the moon landing on July 20, 1969, and other space exploration feats.
At RR Auction, an auction house in Boston, medals, star charts and US flags flown to the moon by Armstrong, Aldrin and the third Apollo 11 crew member, Michael Collins, are among the lots on offer.
Also included are a battered toy aeroplane that belonged to Armstrong as a child, a 70mm film roll from the Hasselblad camera he and Aldrin used on the moon — containing 126 of the most iconic images from their mission — and postal covers that they autographed before they launched, to be sold to support their widows and children if they failed to return.
“They didn’t know if they were going to survive. These were government employees on modest government salaries and no life insurance company would underwrite them should they die on the moon, so they had to create these stamped covers as insurance,” Bobby Livingston, of RR Auction, said.
“They have this emotional appeal, they tell a story. Now there’s a new generation of people trying to get back to the moon and on to Mars and beyond and here we have these little glimpses of history that remind us of the accomplishments of those incredible Apollo pioneers.”