Thursday, March 12, 2009

It’s not exactly ‘Beam me up, Scotty,’ but it’s as close as I’ll ever get to space travel

March 12, 2009
Posted by Noah

I’ve been known, occasionally, to get carried away with the excitement of a given moment, but I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s a lot in our April 1 Space Exploration Auction that may well be the very coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and any previous ones I might have had… It’s Astronaut John Young’s Gemini 10 Foldout Desktop Cockpit Control Training Aide

Before I get to the meat of this amazingly cool piece of space memorabilia, can I just say that I am of a generation that, as kids, was promised – at least by The Jetsons, Star Wars and Star Trek – that the future held flying cars, teleportation, green women and wise little lizard-like gurus who would teach me to use a light saber and lift my space ship out of a bog without touching it, which would have come in handy when it came time to let the dog out and I didn’t want to get up from the couch. I know that Star Wars ostensibly took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but stick with me. So far I haven’t gotten any of these things Hollywood promised me, and I want, at least, my flying car.

My disappointments with the whole of human kind’s inability to fulfill my puerile sci-fi fantasy aside, this lot I’m talking about was a manual training aide for Astronaut John Young, one of the nation’s most prolific and respected space travelers and moonwalkers. He used it to master the hundreds of circuit breakers and switches he was required to know better than scripture when he commanded the Gemini 10 lunar mission. It wasn’t even flown into space, but it was one of the most crucial pieces of erudition for one of America’s best and bravest. I can only imagine how nuts I would have been as a kid to have something like this, just simply as a toy. Even as an adult, sitting here writing this, I am picturing myself sitting at home, early on a Saturday morning, navigating myself and my imaginary band of Federation Jedi on some secret mission at the behest of Master Yoda.

When I started this job last year, one of the first press releases I had to write was for a Space Exploration Auction. Howard Weinberger, Heritage’s Senior Space Consultant told me something that has stuck with me.

“It’s a truism in the world of Space flown memorabilia,” he told me, “ that if you took every single thing that has ever flown into space, in the possession of an astronaut, and put it all together, then it would fill a single large suitcase. Heritage has now been to that suitcase five or six times.”

Granted, a lot of the Space flown memorabilia in the April 1 auction is not necessarily from that singular suitcase, but a lot of it is. That which isn’t is indeed still part of America’s greatest era of space exploration, and still floated in the great yonder, free from the surly bonds of earth. This cockpit training aide did neither, and I’d still give some part of the right side of my body to have it.

I may not ever get to seek out new life or boldly go where no one has gone before, but I can at least venerate those who did, and – where possible – play with the same toys. Check this thing out, and see if you don’t feel the same way.