Space Auction

08/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Where were you July 20th, 1969?

Were you glued to your TV set? Did you get together with friends for a moon-landing party? Were you even born?

If you weren't, it may be hard to fully appreciate just what a global event the lunar landing was. It is still considered the single biggest technological achievement of the human race, yes even bigger than the internet that's making these humble words possible.

Four decades after the fact, I found myself sitting among the bidders at Bonhams New York. On the 40th anniversary of the launch, the world-renowned auction house was holding its first space sale ever.

Among the 400 bits of space mission memorabilia to be auctioned off were 50 mementos of Apollo 11. A star chart handmade by Neil Armstrong while on the moon commanded the unexpected sum of 218-thousand dollars.

Why would anyone pay that much for a tangible bit of history? The answer is the obvious-because it was made on the moon by the first man to walk on it. Even today, 40 years later the thought is astounding. Only 24 men have traveled to the moon and not all of them landed.

An Apollo 11 patch carried to the moon on that first trip and signed by Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins who remained in the spacecraft sold for 61-thousand dollars.

Winning the race for the moon was an even bigger Cold War victory for the U.S. than the 1980 Olympic hockey team win over the Soviets. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on lunar soil, there was little doubt left who the ultimate super power was.

"I stopped my car, looked at the moon and it was a full moon that night and I said to myself I can't believe men are walking on it," recalled Daniel Record, a Connecticut physics teacher and collector I met at the auction.

That was then and this is now when space shuttles and space stations mainly go unnoticed. However, few students of history would argue that when the words "the Eagle has landed" were spoken, the world not only listened, but changed forever. We haven't looked back since, except perhaps for those who remember such milestones with collectibles.

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