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Lot #19
Otto Berg's Pioneer 8 and 9 Experiment Archive

Flight spare of the important Pioneer 8/9 cosmic dust detector—Berg's 'finest experiment'

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Estimate: $3500+
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Flight spare of the important Pioneer 8/9 cosmic dust detector—Berg's 'finest experiment'

Important archive from the collection of Otto Berg, pertaining to his cosmic dust experiment deployed on the heliocentric Pioneer 8 and Pioneer 9 interplanetary space probes. Berg considered this to be one of his most important achievements—he called it his 'finest experiment'—as the results showed that the micrometeoroid hazard was far less than originally anticipated—down to a factor of 1 in 10 million. Micrometeoroids were originally believed to pose a major threat to any astronaut operating outside of the spacecraft—tiny space debris traveling in excess of 5 miles per second could easily puncture a suit with devastating consequences. Berg's experimental results demonstrated the relative scarcity of such an event, paving the way for longer and more sophisticated EVAs.

The highlight of the group is Otto Berg's flight spare of the "Pioneer Cosmic Dust Detector," housed in its wooden 9.75″ x 8″ x 9.75″ wooden case, with Marshall Laboratories label on the top: "Model: ML 309-1, Part No.: 543000, Serial No.: 8C06-2, NASA Contract NAS 5-9259." The unit boasts an incredibly fragile sensor system, composed of super-ultra-thin titanium films that will be damaged by air movement—several hand-annotated labels on the box warn against opening it or breathing toward it. The system was designed to be opened in a vacuum and under no wind conditions.

Additionally includes: Berg's own "Pioneer History" record book, containing his handwritten notes with a log of important dates and activities, as well as various letters, documents, telegrams, and photocopies pertaining to the project pasted inside; Berg's Goddard Space Flight Center office placard, reading: "Cosmic Dust Section, Otto E. Berg, Room-167"; his NASA Certificate of Recognition for his significant scientific contribution to the "Cosmic Dust Sensor"; his NASA Group Achievement Award certificate earned as part of the "Pioneer 6-9 Project Team"; and offprints of three of his papers in this area: four copies of "Orbital Elements of Micrometeorites Derived from Pioneer 8 Measurements" (Journal of Geophysical Research, December 1970) and two copies of "More Than Two Years of Micrometeorite Data from Two Pioneer Satellites" by O. E. Berg and U. Gerloff (Space Research XI, Berlin 1971). In overall very good to fine condition.

From the collection of Dr. Otto Berg.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Science and Technology
  • Dates: #650 - Ended December 15, 2022