The Spoils of Spaceflight

Space-faring artifacts sold at an April auction drew bucks big and small

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Photo: Bonhams
In April, Bonhams auction house held a space history sale in New York City timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13. An Apollo 11 checklist page that details the countdown to the first footsteps on the moon sold for US $152 000. The sheet boasts Neil Armstrong’s signature, along with his historic first words from the moon’s surface. The page was allegedly given as a gift to NASA press officer John McLeaish just days after the first moonwalkers returned. But the purchase is not without intrigue: Armstrong himself swears he never signed the quote for anyone.
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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.


For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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