The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book that sat between Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for the moon landing 50 years ago is going up for auction, at a price that’s expected to amount to as much as $9 million — but first, it’s going on display.
Today, for one day only, the ring-bound flight manual is on exhibit inside a glass case at Seattle’s Living Computers Museum + Labs. From Seattle, the book travels on to Palo Alto, Calif., for another one-day preview Thursday at the Pace Gallery. Then it’s off to Christie’s auction house in New York for a showing from July 11 to 17.
Christie’s is featuring the book as the marquee item in a 195-lot auction of space artifacts and memorabilia scheduled for July 18, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission.
The auction will also offer manuals from Mercury and Gemini space shots, space-flown flags and emblems, and dozens of documents and photos signed by astronauts. But there’s something special about the fact that the timeline book flew to the moon and back, and played such an important role in the mission, said Christina Geiger, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s.
She expects the book to sell in the range of $7 million to $9 million. “This is firmly in the range of the most expensive printed books to sell at auction, and I think that that is fully justified, given what it is,” she told GeekWire. “It links us to the greatest adventure that man has ever made.”
The manual sets down the instructions for every step in the lunar landing sequence, and bears the checkmarks of the astronauts for each task completed. In his role as lunar module pilot, Aldrin scribbled down the coordinates for the touchdown on page 10, which Christie’s says represents the first handwriting made by a human on a celestial body other than Earth.
“It’s got quite a track record — sort of an out-of-this-world history,” said space historian Roger Launius, author of a newly released book titled “Apollo’s Legacy.”
After the moon mission, Aldrin held onto the book in accordance with traditions going back to the days of seafaring pilots. He sold the manual to a private collector in 2007, and now that collector is putting it up for sale amid the 50th-anniversary hubbub.
Geiger said the road show, which is coming to Seattle after stopovers in Hong Kong and Beijing, lets people in on a piece of space history that’s been out of the public eye for decades. “That’s part of the excitement, that it really was locked up for almost 50 years,” she said. “And so, [it’s] just tremendously exciting to bring it to people and get to show it off.”
Launius, for one, hopes the manual won’t be locked up again.
“I’d like to see it displayed in a proper way, made available for people to see … but obviously preserved and made available for future generations,” he said.
Update for 9 p.m. PT July 27: Christie’s may have been hoping to ring up a multimillion-dollar price tag for the Lunar Module Timeline Book, but instead, the result was “No Sale.” Space.com reports that the book failed to attract a single bid. Maybe potential buyers were scared off by the pre-sale buildup?