London: Thousands of rare photographs recording the early days of manned flight into space will go under the hammer this month in Vienna.
The collection is the largest on the subject ever offered on the open market and it features more than 4,500 shots from the days when rockets were little more than guided missiles, adapted to carry a passenger or two instead of a warhead, through to the sudden sunset of manned moon shots in the 1970s.
The photographs amassed by a European collector will be sold in just two large lots in Vienna and are estimated to fetch around 320,000 pounds- 480,000 pounds.
The images shed fresh light on the extraordinary period of technological advance and human achievement that sprang from the struggle between the US and the former Soviet Union.
As well as familiar pictures, such as a colour shot of Buzz Aldrin alone on the lunar surface, which became one of the world’s most reproduced photographs, the collection contains hundreds of black-and-white documentary shots of astronauts and technicians, which reveal the fatigue, boredom and fear that was the true face of the space race.
The space race was eventually won by the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, witnessed by a television audience of around half a billion entranced by blurred, black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong, who died in August, taking a giant leap for mankind.
“During the space race, people tended to compare Neil Armstrong to Christopher Columbus,” said Dr Roger Launius, senior curator of human spaceflight at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC.