One lucky space memorabilia collector will now be able to walk on the Moon's surface, after a giant photograph mosaic sold as part of Bonhams' Illuminating Space: Images from a Private Virginian Collection.
The auction was held yesterday (December 5) in New York, offering a historically significant single-owner collection through 187 lots. The Moon mosaic provided one of the highlights, pushing toward the top end of its $80,000-100,000 estimate at $98,500.
The photographs that make up this remarkable mosaic were originally captured by NASA's Lunar Orbiter IV in 1967. The US Information Agency then commissioned Kodak to assemble the mosaic during the same year, It features 218 panels covered with plastic to enable the public to walk across them.
Thought to be the largest photograph of the Moon ever taken, the piece depicts the entire front side of the Moon at a resolution far higher than is achievable from Earth. There were originally two mosaics produced, one of which was exhibited at the International Astronomical Union meeting in August 1967.
The present copy is thought to have been created as a back-up, though the original has now been lost.
The top lot of the auction was provided by a piece so rare that Bonhams described it as "one of the black tulips of 18th century English scientific instruments".
An outstanding technical achievement, John Russell's 1797 globe, showing the visible surface of the Moon, sold for $242,500, sitting comfortably within its $200,000-300,000 valuation. It was one of just 11 known to exist, with six of those in institutional collections.