Apollo 15 joystick among hundreds of air and space memorabilia items up for auction
By David Szondy
May 12, 2014
If you've been building an Apollo Lunar Module out of scrap parts in your back yard, then you’re in luck. RR Auctions is putting hundreds of items up for bid as part of an auction of air and space memorabilia ranging from the Wright brothers to the present day. Amongst a number of standout items is the joystick from the Apollo 15 Lunar Module, which goes on the block with a starting bid of US$10,000.
The auction house says the Space and Aviation Auction includes a wide array of aerospace collectibles and memorabilia, some of which have never been put on public sale before. The catalog includes letters from the Wright brothers, bits of a Wright flier, a fragment of the Hindenburg, assorted technical gear, photos, autographs, postcards, manuals, models, coins, medallions, maps,charts, and publications.
In addition to the Apollo 15 joystick, (or “lunar module rotational hand controller” as it’s officially known), that was used by David Scott when landing the Falcon module on the Moon in 1971, there are a number of highlights for the space buff with a bit of green to splash around, such as these we’ve selected.
Block I DSKY Interface
If computers are your thing, then the Block I Apollo Guidance computer display and keyboard (DSKY) unit might be right up your alley. It was the original computer for the Apollo Command and Lunar Modules that did the calculations needed for the astronauts to make course corrections and navigate in the event of loss of communication with mission control. The Apollo Guidance computer is also notable for being a unique design that was programmed using “noun” and “verb” commands. According to RR Auction, only 12 Block I interfaces were built at a cost of about US$100,000 each. That’s in 1960s dollars.
Lunar Module Flight Director Attitude Indicator (FDAI)
This isn’t something you'll find at the local flea market. The FDAI with its red, black, and white “8 ball” readout is a 3D version of the familiar turn and bank indicator found in aircraft. It was used on the Lunar Module to help the pilot orient the spacecraft in weightlessness so it was pointing the right way during engine burns.
Apollo Block 1 Control Panel
Another rare item is the Block I Command Module Main Display Console (MDC) panel from an Apollo Command Module. This particular one was installed over the Lunar Module pilot’s station in the Command Module. A few of these have come up for auction before, but this one not only has the panel, but much of the electrics as well.
Russian Space Food
If you’re a bit peckish, there’s a pack of ten Russian space food items, including two packs of bread (dinner bread and Borodino), crackers, toffee, “Russian” cookies, caramel, marmalade, “Vostok” cookies, a pack of prunes, and apple-peach juice in a tube.
When new, these packs cost 18 thousand rubles ($600) just to manufacture, but they go under the hammer with a starting bid of US$200.
There’s also a pack of NASA freeze-dried space food cubes that were used in the Apollo ground simulator. Packed in plastic, it’s a bit of a lucky dip because exactly what it is is as much a mystery as the special on a school cafeteria menu.
Apollo Buddy Secondary Life Support System (BSLSS)
The first Apollo Moon landings lasted only a few hours and the astronauts didn't walk more than a few tens of yards from the Lunar Module. However, by the later missions the crew were riding about in electric rovers that took them further afield. When you’re a quarter of a million miles from help, that’s a very bad place for your life support system to malfunction, so from Apollo 14 on the crews were equipped with the BSLSS.
It’s an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) umbilical cord that hooks the air and cooling water system of one astronaut’s suit to the other. It served as a high-tech buddy breathing system to help the disabled astronaut until he can get back to the Lunar Module. The one up for auction is a training version because those that went to the Moon were left on the lunar surface to save weight on the return journey.
Flown Crewman Optical Alignment Sight (COAS)
The highlighted joystick isn't the only piece of equipment from Apollo 15 that’s on the block. There’s also the COAS. It doesn't show up much in accounts of the Moon landings, but it’s a very important bit of kit. It’s basically a gunsight that the Commander used on the Lunar Module to get gross range and closing rate cues on the Command Service Module during the docking maneuver after lifting off from the Moon.
Apollo 11 Checklist
We may be moving into a world of tablets and paperless cockpits, but the Space Race was anything but, as the auction of this checklist used on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Eagle shows. It’s also an interesting bit of history because it covers the countdown steps for an emergency lift off from the Moon – a procedure that even in a non-emergency situation was so hazardous that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin only gave themselves a 50 percent chance of getting home alive.
X-15 Wind Tunnel Nose Model
The race to the Moon may have got all the glory, but not all astronauts flew into space in repurposed ballistic missiles. The X-15 rocket plane flew so high that some of its crew passed the official edge of space and officially earned their astronaut status. RR Auction includes a set of X-15 items in its bidding, including this wind tunnel nose model used to test the X-15’s aerodynamics.
Salyut 6 Star Orientation Device
Another optical device of extreme rarity that’s up for sale is a Star Orientation unit from the Salyut 6 space station. This model AO-1 device would have shared the fate of most of its fellows that burned up when the Soviet space stations they were on fell back to Earth, but this one was returned for performance and endurance studies and testing.
Cosmonaut “Penguin” Suit
This “penguin” suit was worn by cosmonaut Aleksander Volkov, who was highly decorated and flew on three space missions. This particular one was worn by him during the long-duration Soyuz TM-13 flight to the Mir space station. Given the lack of washing machines on spacecraft, we hope they rinsed this one out afterwards.
Sokol KM Rescue Suit
Derived from the Sokol-K suit, this Russian spacesuit is actually more of a rescue suit, designed to protect the cosmonaut from sudden depressurization of the space capsule. According to RR Auction, this one seems to have its helmet, boots, gloves, and cables.
Mission Control Console
For those looking for a conversation piece for the living room, there’s an Apollo-era mission control console from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. This two-terminal console was later modified for use during Space Shuttle missions and was one of those in service during the 1986 Challenger disaster.
The Space and Aviation Auction auction takes place online and in Boston, Massachusetts from May 15 to May 22.