The personal collection of the first man to set foot on the moon is heading to auction.
The family of the late Neil Armstrong has turned to Heritage Auctions of Dallas to sell more than 2,000 items from the astronaut's estate. An initial offering from the Armstrong Family Collection, as Heritage is referring to the archive, will debut for sale in early November, with additional auctions planned for next year.
"There will be flown items, autographed items and items of historical significance," said son Mark Armstrong in a statement. "There will be items that make you think, items that make you laugh and items that make you scratch your head." [Makings of a Moon Landing: 50 Years Ago, Apollo 11 Was One Year From 'Giant Leap']
The collection includes artifacts and keepsakes that span Neil Armstrong's life, ranging from the cap he wore as a Boy Scout to material from the world's first powered airplane, the original Wright Flyer, which Armstrong took with him to the moon in July 1969.
An engineer, research test pilot, astronaut and administrator, Neil Armstrong served as the command pilot of NASA's Gemini 8 mission in 1966, achieving the world's first docking in space, before commanding Apollo 11, the world's first mission to land humans on the moon, three years later. Prior to joining the space program, he flew combat missions during the Korean War as a naval aviator.
He died in 2012 at the age of 82.
"He was never about himself, so I would expect that he didn't give much thought about how he would be remembered," said son Rick Armstrong. "With that being said, I think he would be pleased to be remembered as being part of a program that demonstrated amazing things can be achieved when people come together to dedicate themselves towards a common goal."
Little was known about Armstrong's personal memorabilia until after his death. Unlike his Gemini and Apollo crewmates, who since their flights have loaned, donated and sold their spaceflight souvenirs, Armstrong generally refrained from such activities.
In 2015, three years after Armstrong's death, his family announced the discovery of a bag full of Apollo 11 flown hardware hidden in a closet. The artifacts, including the stowage pouch in which they were brought back to Earth, were loaned to the Smithsonian, where they remain.
With the exception of a few mementos donated to charity auctions, the Heritage sale marks the first time that the Armstrong family has offered the moonwalker's collection for sale.
"Neil Armstrong's bravery and skill defines what it means to be an American hero," said Todd Imhof, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions, in a statement. "We are privileged to be working closely with the Armstrong family to honor Neil's lifetime legacy with items reflective of all his achievements, not just his famous lunar landing."
"These are some of the most iconic historical items ever to be sold," said Imhof.
Other highlights from the Armstrong Family Collection include gold and silver Robbins medals flown as mementos on Apollo 11; a silk flag carried to the moon representing Armstrong's alma mater, Purdue University; and a gold pin that accompanied Armstrong on board Gemini 8.
The sale also includes examples of Armstrong's saved correspondence, including a congratulatory telegram from President Richard Nixon and letters written by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, Vice President Spiro Agnew and then-Vice President (and future President) George H.W. Bush.
Another letter in the sale, penned by a NASA public affairs official to an Apollo program manager, addresses whether astronauts should be able to decide what to say when they walk on the surface of the moon.
Armstrong famously declared that his own first "small step" was a "giant leap for all mankind."
The Armstrong Family Collection will open for bids as part of Heritage's Nov. 1-2 Space Exploration auction. Additional sales are planned for before and after the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, on May 9-10 and in November 2019.
The Armstrong family has collaborated with Collectibles Authentication Guaranty (CAG) to preserve and document the collection's provenance. The firm, a member of the Certified Collectibles Group, is working with Heritage to ensure every item is photographed and cataloged so that they can be referenced later by researchers.
See more items from the upcoming Armstrong Family Collection auction at collectSPACE.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.