Navigation by an '8-ball for astronauts' brings $90,000 at Heritage's Space auction

Heritage's long awaited Space sale has come to pass with a great wealth of collectibles going under the hammer and something for every collector interested in the world beyond their own planet, from every step of man's exploration of space to objects which reached Earth without our help.

Naturally, many of the highest priced lots in the auction were related to the Apollo program. In fact of the top ten lots over half related to the moon missions.

The most spectacularly performing lot was a Lunar Module Rocket Engine, Reaction Control System.

Sixteen engines just like this one (with an extended nozzle) were mounted on the exterior of each lunar module in four quadruple clusters.

The Marquardt Corporation, which designed this engine, was awarded the contract to build the reaction-control rocket engines for the Apollo spacecraft in 1963. They were first flown in the unmanned Apollo-Saturn 201 test flight launched in February 1966.

Designed for manoeuvring in space, this was a bipropellant engine using hypergolic nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine as propellants, generating 100+ pounds of thrust.

Apollo rocket lunar reaction engine
Apollo rocket lunar reaction engine

A striking piece in excellent condition it carried the remarkably low estimate of $4,000-$8,000. Space memorabilia collectors weren't stopping there though, and the price was manoeuvred all the way to $35,850 indicating the strength of the market and the value of these items as investments.

This was not the top lot however. That honour went to a Command/ Service Module Flight Director Attitude Indicator - a very rare, important, and desirable piece of equipment manufactured by Honeywell for the Apollo command module.

This FDAI or '8 Ball' was used to define the relative position of the spacecraft in three-dimensional space.

Astronauts 8 ball
Astronauts' 8 ball

Originally designed to be three different panel instruments, the astronauts, many of which were pilots, lobbied for an all-in-one device similar to the 'artificial horizon' indicator in airplanes. The piece is in fine condition with just minor wear and even includes the electrical connector.

The piece was finally navigated to a bidder who paid $89,625. Both items were captured by phone bidders.

For collectors frustrated to have missed the sale, there is a range of Apollo memorabilia currently available.


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