Category Archives: History

Sotheby’s space auction includes Moon rock from Soviet Luna 16 mission

[ Update: The Moon rocks sold near the top of the expected range of bids: Soviet robot-retrieved moon rocks sell for $855,000 at Sotheby’s | collectSPACE

Sotheby’s on Thursday (Nov. 29) auctioned the only known pieces of Earth’s natural satellite to be collected from the lunar surface and be legally sold for $855,000. The three tiny pebbles were among a small cache of moon material that was brought back by the former Soviet Union’s Luna 16 robotic probe in 1970.

The same moon rocks — which were originally presented to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the “Chief Designer” of the Soviet space program — were sold by Sotheby’s in December 1993 for $442,500. With inflation, Thursday’s sale in New York City reflected an increase of about $87,500.


Sotheby’s is holding a Space Exploration auction in New York today. The space collectibles and memorabilia items on sale include actual material obtained from the Moon’s surface:

The top lot in the sale was originally sold in the 1993 Russian Space History Sale here at Sotheby’s – a sample of lunar rocks returned to Earth by the Russian Luna-16 unmanned mission. It was the first time a piece of another world had ever been offered for sale to the public. It remains to this day, the only known legal sale of moon rocks to have ever occurred. We look forward to once again offering this tremendously rare and historic artifact to the public.  

“Three samples of lunar rock from Luna-16, the first automated sample retrieval from the moon, encased under glass within a 2 by 2 inch metal block positioned below an adjustable lens, the whole secured to a 6½ by 3½ inch metal base labeled “ЧАСТИЦЫ ГРУНТА ЛУНЫ-16” [SOIL PARTICLES FROM LUNA-16]. Central fragment consisting of basalt with feldspar crystals visible, adjoining larger fragments consisting of finely structured vesicular agglutinates, showing glass coatings caused by age-old meteorite impact.” – Sotheby’s
In addition there is

a wide variety of material from both the American & Soviet space programs — from lunar & space photography, original artwork by artists such as Chesley Bonestell and Alan Bean, flown mission artefacts and hardware, items from the personal collections of astronauts, autographed items, maps & charts, signed books, models, spacesuits, and much more, with material suited for both new and seasoned collectors.

“A complete Gemini spacesuit with helmet, gloves made for Pete Conrad, and boots made for Frank Borman, 1963-65…G-2C-4 full high altitude pressure suit, including inner pressure suit and outer cover layer, complete with GH-2C-7 helmet, GG-2C-16 gloves made to fit Pete Conrad, and GB-5C-9 boots made to fit Frank Borman, all manufactured by the David Clark Company for NASAS between 1963-1965.” – Sotheby’s
A Nice Place to Visit” – acrylic painting by Alan Bean, an Apollo astronaut who walked on the Moon and a talented artist.
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Space policy roundup – Oct.26.2018

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** Administrator Bridenstine Joins Washington Post Discussion: The New Space Age

The Washington Post hosted “Transformers: Space” which featured prominent speakers in the fields of space science and policy. The New Space Age discussion included NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and Dr. Heidi Hammel, Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Planetary Society. These speakers discussed the most important issues on the country’s space agenda including the future of the International Space Station, America’s plans to return to the Moon, and the search for life in the cosmos.

** NASA Administrator Talks Training, Future Missions with Newest Astronaut Class

NASA’s newest class of astronaut trainees joined agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine Sept. 27 at NASA headquarters, to talk about their experiences in the training program, hopes for future missions, and more, in a live episode of “Watch This Space”.

Astronaut candidates Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raja Chari, Loral O’ Hara and Jessica Watkins were joined by Canadian Space Agency astronaut candidates Joshua Kutryk and Jenni Sidey-Gibbons. The first U.S. astronauts, the “Original Seven,” were selected in 1959. Since then, NASA has selected 21 more groups of astronauts. This latest class, announced on June 7, 2017, includes a physician, biologist, geologist, military pilots and engineers.

Once their training is complete, they may be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by U.S. commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

** October 23, 2018 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black

** The Space Show – Tue, 10/23/2018William Ketchum

Ketchum spoke about his new book, To The Moon On A Slide Rule, and “early ICBM and rocket history, early space program, Surveyor missions, lunar surface, nuclear propulsion, NASA, SLS, Gateway and much more”.


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto


Videos: Yearly changes in human population, world history, Chinese dynasties, etc

A sampling of videos showing historical changes one frame at a time:

** Human Population Through Time

** The History of the World: Every Year

** The Spread of the Indo-Europeans

** The Early Dynasties of China: Every Year

** World War I: Every Day


Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: The First Manned Mission to Another World

Videos: 100th launch of an Ariane V rocket sends two satellites to GEO

Yesterday an Ariane V rocket lifted off on the 100th mission of the program, sending two communications satellites towards their slots in geostationary orbit. 100th Ariane 5 launch a success, orbiting two satellites for Intelsat, SKY Perfect JSAT and Azercosmos – Arianespace

The first Ariane V launch took place on June 4, 1996. Unfortunately, the rocket exploded soon after liftoff due to a software problem.

There was another total loss on the 14th launch and three partial failures (two in the 1990s and one last year) occurred when the satellites were put into the wrong orbits and had to use their own fuel to reach the target orbits. In general, though, the Ariane V became a very reliable launcher. Failures early in launch vehicle’s launch history are the norm as seen, for example, with the two SpaceX Falcon 9 explosions (one in flight and one during a pad test).

Scott Manley gives some background on the Ariane V:

Speaking of launches, here is an essay on the fun and excitement of watching a launch: The day I caught rocket fever | The Planetary Society.


Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes