On July 20, 2021, Sotheby’s, the storied centuries-old auction house, promised collectors the Moon—or at least the chance to bid on items involved in getting there. Among the eighty-seven lots up for sale was an Apollo Guidance Computer. This metallic box, designed by MIT’s Instrument Laboratory and produced by Raytheon starting in 1966, was an essential tool for navigating the lunar surface and an important forerunner of modern computing. Sotheby’s estimated that this celebrated artifact—frequently studied not only in space history but also in the history of technology—would fetch between $200,000 and $300,000 USD. But when the auctioneer’s hammer hit the lectern, the price had skyrocketed to $746,000 USD. Other items on the block that day included a lunar surface checklist used by Neil Armstrong (sold for $63,000 USD) and Richard Feynman’s personal notes from the Challenger disaster investigation (sold for $44,100 USD). In case there was any doubt, Sotheby’s...
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Essay| September 01 2023
The Trouble with Space Auctions
Eleanor S. Armstrong,
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (2023) 53 (4): 425–433.
Eleanor S. Armstrong, Jordan Bimm; The Trouble with Space Auctions. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 September 2023; 53 (4): 425–433. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2023.53.4.425
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