Time-chart from 'the longest space mission', Salyut 6, floats to $50,000

Many families fret over taking time away over Christmas, with the number of things that can go wrong with the trip seeming to multiply over the festive season.

If that's how you're thinking at the moment, spare a thought for the cosmonauts who at this time in 1977 were preparing for the Salyut 6 mission which ran from December 10 1977 - March 16 1978, at that time the longest mission in Space.

On Thursday, visual presentation guru Professor Edward Tufte's collection went under the hammer at Christie's. This was based around rare books, but included an eclectic mix of collectibles which chimed with his work, including a fine piece of space memorabilia - which its original owners didn't like much.

The fantastic Cyclogram time-chart of the Salyut 6 mission, which impressed Tufte with its user-friendly presentation of information, went under the hammer on Thursday. It is likely to prove a fine investment for its new owner.

Space mission chart for Saluyt 6 from the collection of Edward Tufte
Space mission chart for Salyut 6 from the collection of Edward Tufte
(Click to see extract)

"Their cyclogram eventually measured the demanding passage of time with fully eight methods, all plodding along in parallel: phases of the moon, holidays, weeks (red tick marks), fraction of total flight, dates (each newly completed day was colored with a red triangle), elapsed days, total weeks to go and total weeks finished" commented the professor.

"Transitions between day and night are shown by contours outlining gray bands of darkness and yellow bands of daylight, as the vertical axis shows the time of a single orbit (91 minutes, starting at the equator).

"This grid plots time by time: orbit time in minutes (vertical) by trip time in days (horizontal). For example, on the 84th day reading up, one full orbit around Earth consisted of 20 minutes of daylight. All told, the cosmonauts experienced some 1500 sunrises and 1500 sunsets during their mission"

Cosmonaut Georgi Grechko and Romanenko organized the chart before launch so that "...in a single view it would reveal the entire flight program. We thought it would be handy and convenient to have such a chart aboard the space station." Once in space, the chart proved a grim reminder of the many days ahead: "it came to be quite unpleasant."

The unpleasant chart sold as expected for $50,000.


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