Category Archives: History

Sputnik-1 lab test model leads Bonhams Air & Space auction

Bonhams auction house will hold The Air and Space Sale on September 17th. A highlight of the collection is the SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957.

 Sputnik-1 test model
Sputnik-1 engineering test model from 1957.

From the press release:

The Dawn of the Space Age
Bonhams to Offer an Exceptionally Rare Vintage Test Model
of the Sputnik-1 Satellite

  • Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite [February 1957]
  • Formerly on loan and displayed at Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin, Germany

New York – On September 17, Bonhams will hold The Air and Space Sale, which is highlighted by an exceptionally rare vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite (estimate: $400,000-600,000). This model is one of only a few made to test ground electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). It was used by NII-885, a company under the Soviet Ministry of the Radio Industry, which, along with OKB-1, are responsible for the Sputnik-1 success. This example had been on loan and was displayed at Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin, Germany and was in the Collection of NII-885 director Dr. Mikhail Ryazansky.

Adam Stackhouse, Bonhams specialist, commented:

“We are honored to bring this world-changing piece of history to auction. There are only a handful of known working examples of the Sputnik-1 and this one comes with excellent provenance.”

About Sputnik-1
The Sputnik-1 artificial satellite was launched into Earth orbit by a R7 Semiorka rocket on October 4, 1957. The satellite had several scientific objectives: test the method of placing an artificial satellite in Earth orbit; provide information on the density of the upper atmosphere; test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking; determine the effects of radio propagation through the atmosphere; and check principles of pressurization used on satellites. Testing would have been rigorous as Sergei Korolov, the lead Soviet rocket engineer who headed the Sputnik-1 project, insisted that the transmission be received even by those with the cheapest of radios.

The successful launch of Sputnik-1 sent the United States population into a panic. In the midst of a cold war, the Soviets demonstrated that they had a rocket powerful enough to send a satellite into orbit.

“There was a sudden crisis of confidence in American technology, values, politics, and the military. Science, technology, and engineering were totally reworked and massively funded in the shadow of Sputnik. The Russian satellite essentially forced the United States to place a new national priority on research science, which led to the development of microelectronics…. Many essential technologies of modern life, including the Internet, owe their early development to the accelerated pace of applied research triggered by Sputnik”

(Dickson p.4). Dickson. Sputnik: The Shock of the Century. New York: Walker, [2001].

Additional highlights in the sale include:

  • CIAM/NASA HFL Kholod rocket, once the fastest vehicle to fly within the earth’s atmosphere (estimate: $80,000-120,000)
  • Lavochkin V-751 Surface-to-Air Missile, an experimental missile that was part of the family of missiles used in Lavochkin’s S-75 high-altitude air defense system (estimate: $50,000-70,000)
  • A hand-crafted lunar module contractor’s model marked with Grumman and NASA logos, and titled “Lunar Excursion Module” (estimate: $6,000-8,000)

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The Race to the Moon Chronicled in Stamps, Postcards, and Postmarks:
A Story of Puffery vs. the Pragmatic (Springer Praxis Books)

“50/50 Lunar Legends” film documents the stories of US space pioneers

Check out the 50/50 Lunar Legends film:

“50/50 Lunar Legends” a new documentary about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and hidden figures of US space program – from Apollo to these days. We interviewed 50 people at the Florida Space Coast. Those who have contributed or who are actively contributing to space exploration.

Neil Armstrong believed their chances were only 50/50 that the moon landing would be a success. Hence the name of the documentary. It focuses on the actual people who worked behind the scenes at NASA and its contractors to pioneer the science and technology of space exploration and how private companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and alike now continue to push us further into the future.

Lunar Legends

The project was non-commercial  and accomplished on a shoestring budget.

A brief preview:

A longer trailer can be seen at 50/50 Lunar Legends – Trench Media on FaceBook.

The full documentary is currently available at 50 / 50 Lunar Legends | Amazon Prime Video in three parts:

  1. A Call to Action: The space race created excitement across the nation and within the young engineers and others who got jobs at NASA and moved to the Space Coast of Florida.
  2. 50/50 Chances: There is a huge sense of the “unknown” and “doubt” associated with space exploration. This inherently risky business pays off with great rewards for humanity that may also be followed by great tragedy.
  3. A New Incentive: A deep sense of inspiration and dissatisfaction remained as the future of space exploration sat stagnant. Now, new players emerge in the Space business and the power shifts from public to private. The time has come for strategic collaboration as the new golden age for Space arrives.

More at

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First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience

Video: “How to Draw the Lunar Lander”

Artist Stanley Von Medvey shows how to draw the Apollo lunar lander:

If you prefer to build a model of the lander, here are some paper model guides for download:

Here’s a 1960s era NASA fact sheet for the Lunar Module (pdf).

And a simulator: Eagle Lander 3D (EL3D)

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Aoshima Apollo Lunar Module Eagle-5 Model Kit

LEGO releases Apollo 11 Lunar Lander + An ISS model wins fan vote to become official LEGO kit

LEGO now offers an NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander kit in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon:

Celebrate man’s first moon landing with this LEGO® Creator Expert 10266 NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander building set—developed in cooperation with NASA to mark the 50th anniversary of a historical event that captivated the world. This collectible model features a highly detailed replica of Apollo 11’s Eagle lunar module, plus a depiction of the lunar surface, complete with crater, footprints and a U.S. flag. The descent stage comes with gold-colored landing pads and panels, opening camera and laser hatches, and a ladder, while the ascent stage has a detailed interior with room for 2 astronauts. Finished with an Apollo 11 Lunar Lander nameplate, this display model makes a great centerpiece for the home or office and provides a challenging and rewarding building experience full of nostalgia. Includes 2 astronaut minifigures with NASA decoration and golden helmets.

The 1000+ piece kit is aimed at advanced builders who want a display quality model and collectible. Here are some reviews:

A hobbyist-designed LEGO model of the International Space Station has also won a popular vote at LEGO IDEAS to become an official LEGO kit:

LEGO ISS Model
LEGO ISS model designed by Christoph Ruge. Credits: LEGO Ideas/Christoph Ruge

From collectSPACE:

The International Space Station has won the honor of becoming an official toy in the LEGO universe.

The orbiting outpost topped a fan vote of more than 22,000 LEGO enthusiasts to be the Danish toy company’s next real-life spacecraft to be made into a toy brick model. The space station received more than 45 percent of the votes cast — 10,438 votes to be exact — in the LEGO Ideas 10 Year Anniversary poll held May 20 through June 4 on the company’s website.

“An incredible achievement in [the] short fan vote period. It continues to show the huge desire for space and space exploration among the LEGO Ideas community,” wrote Hasan Jensen, a LEGO Ideas team member, in a blog post announcing the winner on Tuesday (June 4).

The International Space Station (ISS) model, as designed by Christoph Ruge of Germany, was up against three other set ideas that had qualified and then been passed over by the LEGO production review process. LEGO held the fan vote to mark the 10th anniversary of its LEGO Ideas website, which invites enthusiasts to propose new sets. Projects that reach 10,000 supporters are reviewed by LEGO for possible production and sale.

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LEGO Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V 21309 Outer Space Model Rocket
for Kids and Adults, Science Building Kit (1900 pieces)

Videos: Restoring an Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC)

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) seems quite primitive today but it was a great advance in real time computing for the 1960s. Even with just 2k of RAM and 37k of ROM, the AGC was crucial to the successful operation of the Apollo command modules (CM) and Apollo Lunar Modules (LM).

A team organized by Marc Verdiell (CuriousMarc), who specializes in restoration of vintage electronic devices, is restoring an AGC to working condition. They have recorded their efforts in videos posted on the CuriousMarc channel.

** Apollo AGC Part 1: Restoring the computer that put man on the Moon:

We embark on the restoration of a very rare and historically significant machine: the Apollo Guidance Computer, or AGC. It was the revolutionary MIT-designed computer aboard Apollo that brought man on the Moon (and back!). Mike Stewart, space engineer extraordinaire and living AGC encyclopedia, spearheads this restoration effort. In this first episode, we setup a makeshift lab in his hotel room, somewhere in Houston. The computer belongs to a delightful private collector, Jimmie Loocke, who has generously allowed us to dive in the guts of his precious machine, with the hope of restoring it to full functionality by July 2019, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

** Apollo AGC Part 2: Power supplies test

Mike Stewart gives an overview of the hardware. Enamored by the success at checking the IC gates, we proceed to check out and power up the supplies. Once again a long-ish video, but I hesitate to chop it up too much for fear of losing details that might be important to some. Let me know how I am doing.

Apollo AGC Part 3: Main Bus B Undervolt

In preparation for the AGC power up, we test the alarm module B8, simulate the Apollo 13 main bus undervolt, and discover that our memory is faulty. And we find out how much our AGC did originally cost.

Apollo AGC Part 4: We are “go” for power up

The last module has checked out OK. It’s time to attempt powering up the AGC – and see if it awakens from its 43+ years of slumber, even without proper working memory.

Apollo AGC Part 4 ½: Bonus material, full Logic Analyzer trace explanation uncut

Some inquisitive minds requested a non-edited version of the hard core read-back of the LA trace we obtained in episode 4. Your wish is hereby granted. It’s actually quite interesting, provided you are a curious minded enginerd and dedicated follower of this restoration. Normal folks, move right along. Oh, wait, are there any of these left on my channel? Anyhow, I am curious (it’s in my name) to see how popular this video is going to be.

Apollo AGC Part 5: We run a chunk of original Apollo code!

We are out of time for our first visit, and memory is not working. But our whiz kid Mike manages to whip up an FPGA memory emulator for the AGC just before we have to leave. The AGC gets to run a chunk of an original Apollo program!

Apollo AGC Part 6: Restoration update, a new sponsor, and a satellite launch

An update on the work with the DKSY, the rope memory simulator, the core memory, and Mike’s satellite launch!

You can also try out a simulation of the AGC at Online Apollo Guidance Computer Simulator.

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