One Collector Saved More Than 1,500 Classic NASA Photos From the Trash. Now, They Are Headed to Auction.

For $9,000, you could own a piece of space history.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Can’t afford a moon rock? This might be the next best thing.

A massive archive of more than 1,500 photographs of American space exploration taken during the height of the space race is going under the hammer at Swann Galleries later this month. The New York-based auction house is selling the entire archive as a single lot in its photography sale on April 19. It is estimated to fetch between $9,000 and $12,000.

The trove captures the golden age of NASA between 1961 and 1972, when the agency ran its first manned missions. The collection includes images of pioneering astronauts John Glenn (the first American to orbit the earth), Ed White (the first American to walk in space), and Neil Armstrong (the first person to walk on the moon).

Originally photographs made available to the press, the images were saved from the trash heap by a former employee of a national picture agency, who is now offering them for sale.

“During this pre-digital period, more photographs were made available to news outlets than were required,” Swann Galleries specialist Daile Kaplan explained in a statement. “Once the demand for images of an event diminished, excess photographic prints were typically destroyed. This collection contains press prints that were saved from destruction.”

The nine binders of photographs include images of lift-offs, astronauts floating in space, the dark side of the moon, and lunar rovers driving across the moon’s surface.

Measuring 7½ by 9½ inches each, most images in the archive include captions and dates with detailed notes on their subjects. A snapshot of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins waving to a crowd in a Chicago parade on August 13, 1969—about a month after Americans landed on the moon for the first time—is accompanied by the caption, “Almost a million persons lined the parade route.”

See a selection of the photographs below.

A lunar craft. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Apollo 12 Astronauts prepare scientific equipment. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins at a parade. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Apollo 12 about to lift off. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

An Astronaut on the Moon. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

The lunar surface. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Apollo 13 lifts off. Photo: Swann Galleries.

An Astronaut in training. Photo: courtesy of Swann Galleries.

Apollo 12. Photo: Swann Galleries.


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