Inside NASA's Auction: The Only Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon and Buzz Aldrin's Selfie

Joelle Goldstein
·4 min read

Buzz Aldrin/Christie’s The only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, July 16-24, 1969

Space fans are in for an early holiday treat, as they could become the new owners of a piece of NASA history.

Between Nov. 6 and 20, the U.S. agency is teaming up with Christie's to auction off 2,400 rare NASA photos as part of the British auction house's "Voyage To Another World: The Victor Martin-Malburet Photograph Collection," according to a press release.

Compiled over 15 years by Martin-Malburet, the photographs will showcase "the artistic heritage of the golden age of space exploration when NASA, and its astronaut-photographers, captured the first forays into space and onto the surface of another world," the release stated.

Christie's described the images as the "most comprehensive private collection of NASA photographs ever presented at auction," and said they are estimated to range in price from £800 to £30,000 ($1056.82 to $39,630.75 USD).

Some of the items up for sale include the only photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon, showing him next to an American flag in July 1969, and the first self-portrait in space, which was snapped by Buzz Aldrin in 1966.

Buzz Aldrin/Christie's The first self-portrait in space, taken by Buzz Aldrin in 1966

Buzz Aldrin/Christie's Buzz Aldrin, with the photographer, Neil Armstrong, and the Lunar Module reflected in his gold-plated visor, July 16-24, 1969

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The photo of Armstrong is currently listed as the most expensive item in the collection at an estimated £30,000 to £50,000 ($37,800 to $63,000 USD), according the listing.

Meanwhile, Aldrin's selfie is estimated to go for £6,000 to £8,000 ($7,560 to $10,080 USD), per the listing.

The collection also includes the first human-taken photograph of Earthrise in 1968, a photo of astronaut Ed White embarking on the first U.S. spacewalk in 1965 and a snapshot of Laika the dog preparing for takeoff prior to becoming the first animal to orbit Earth in 1957.

James McDivitt/Christie's Ed White's EVA over Texas during the first U.S. Spacewalk, June 3-7, 1965

Alfred Worden/Christie's Crescent Earth rising beyond the Moon's barren horizon, 1971

"The astronauts are often portrayed as great scientists and heroes, but rarely are they hailed as some of the most significant photographers of all time," Martin-Malburet said in a statement. "The early pioneers of Mercury and Gemini were given as a canvas space and the Earth; the Apollo astronauts an alien world. From the thin protections of their space capsules and EMUs (Extravehicular Mobility Units), they captured, with skill and daring, photographs which immediately embraced the iconography of the sublime, inspiring awe and wonder.”

The images were snapped when photography was still analog and required light-sensitive chemistry, film and photographic papers, Christie's pointed out.

With the help of NASA, Kodak, National Geographic photographers and other specialists, the astronauts were trained how to capture the images in space, the press release stated.

"Through their cameras, the astronauts-turned artists were able to convey to mankind the beauty and profundity of their experience into space, forever changing the way we see ourselves and our place in the universe," Christie's wrote.

Alfred Worden/Christie's Panoramic view of Harrison Schmitt, Tracy’s Rock and the Lunar Rover, station 6, Dec. 7-19, 1972

Afterward, many of those images were released by the space agency, but a large number of others have remained in the archives of the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, only accessible to accredited researchers, according to Christie's.

The photos were later featured in art exhibitions around the world — including the Grand Palais in Paris, the Kunsthaus in Zürich, the Museum Der Moderne in Salzburg, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen and the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Oslo — before finally going up for auction this month.

"The sale offers collectors across the globe a unique opportunity to acquire a universal moment in the history of mankind," Christie's wrote in the release.

Those interested in viewing the entire collection can do so here.