In a little over a month, humanity will mark the 52nd anniversary of man’s, Neil Armstrong’s, first steps on the moon. On Jul. 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, Neil Armstrong plants the first human foot on another world. The situation was a little scarier than NASA had planned for. On approach to landing on the lunar surface, Commander Buzz Aldrin had to make some unexpected landing adjustments because of a computer error, and the lunar lander “Eagle” successfully landed on The Sea of Tranquility with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Fuel that the crew needed for their return to the orbiting command module Columbia which was being piloted by astronaut Michael Collins. Michael Collins eventually wrote an award-winning autobiography Carrying the Fire. A book I’ve read and consider one of my personal top 5 reads.
As history has recorded, Aldrin and Armstrong did successfully make it back to Collins and the Columbia. After the Eagle successfully docked with Columbia, Collins, “for the first time,” “really felt that we were going to carry this thing off.” The crew successfully splashed down off the coast of Hawaii on July 24 which check-marked the bottom line of Apollo 11’s remarkable and historic lunar mission, arguably one of the single most historic events in modern human time.
In doing my research for this article, one word describing Neil Armstrong’s demeanor kept surfacing: modesty. Neil Armstrong, one of the more historically significant people in human history, was a very modest man who never sought fame, nor fortune, from his lifetime of hallmark accomplishments – and there were many. From piloting the record-breaking North American X-15 rocket plane, to walking on the moon, to serving as NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for aeronautics, Neil Armstrong did not waste his time here on terra firma (or luna firma).
Neil Armstrong was admitted to Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital in Fairfield, OH for severe chest pains. On August 25 Armstrong died from complications resulting from “routine” coronary bypass surgery after a nurse removed two electrical connections to his artificial pace maker a week prior. He bled profusely into the membrane surrounding his heart. A lawsuit ensued and there was a $6 million settlement to the family. The end of a hero, the launch of a valuable legacy. Five years later, the auctions began.
Michael Riley is the Director of Space Exploration for Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Heritage Auctions was given the sole right to the Neil Armstrong estate artifacts (officially called The Armstrong Family Collection). Heritage Auctions, established in 1976, is one of the most formidable auction houses in the world. Out of curiosity, I did a Google Earth search on Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and their facility is massive. When speaking with Michael it was very obvious how proud he was that Neil Armstrong’s family had entrusted his company to disseminate these national treasures. Heritage began the Space Exploration division of their company in September, 2007. Joe Garino, who was a physical trainer for the astronauts at NASA, was the subject of their first Space Exploration auction. Many of the astronauts befriended Joe and they would bring him collectibles from their flights. The auctioning of Joe’s artifacts was the beginning of something big at Heritage Auctions.