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Lot #4091
Apollo 11 Flown CM Rotational Hand Controller #1

Remarkable flown Apollo 11 Command Module rotational hand controller grip, used onboard the 'Columbia' by Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins

Estimate: $300000+

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Server Time: 4/21/2024 06:40:36 PM EDT
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Remarkable flown Apollo 11 Command Module rotational hand controller grip, used onboard the 'Columbia' by Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins

Awe-inspiring flown rotational attitude controller grip ("Rot Control #1 Handle") from the Apollo 11 Command Module 'Columbia.' The gray contoured 'joystick-type' hand controller grip measures 4.5˝ high with a black trigger-style push-to-talk switch located near the top. Underneath the base, the grip is marked with its part number, "10022865-101," as well as three government inspection stamps, and a handwritten number, "1." The grip is accompanied by its yellow North American Rockwell "Temporary Parts Removal Tag," filled out in ink: "Rot Control #1 Handle, Part Number: 10022865-101, Serial/Lot Number: 1012, Authority: TPS 033, REM #594." The lower portion of the tag is marked "Identity of Next Assembly, Model Number: V36-3, Part Number: V36-000002-111, Serial Number: 107, Mark for Shipment of: PFT 107, Inspector: 9-22-69," with three inspection hand-stamps below. A piece of gray tape affixed across the palm area reads "#1" at one end, and "Apollo 11" at the other. The grip is removably mounted on a walnut desk display stand, along with the parts tag and an embroidered Apollo 11 mission patch, to an overall size of 15˝ x 7˝ x 5˝.

Using this gray grip while inside the Command Module, the Apollo 11 astronauts could control the spacecraft's rotation in either direction around all three axes, using it to adjust yaw, pitch, and roll. Two attitude controllers were mounted on either side of the crew couch, connected in parallel so that they operated in a redundant fashion without switching. All members of the Apollo 11 crew—CDR Neil Armstrong, LMP Buzz Aldrin, and CMP Michael Collins—would have had access to this controller at various stages of the mission: at launch, Armstrong sat on the left side, Aldrin at center, and Collins on the right; during parking orbit and trans-lunar insertion, Aldrin and Collins switched places; during transposition, docking, and extraction, Collins and Armstrong switched places, putting Collins on the left side and Armstrong at center.

Much has been made of attributing specific hand controllers to specific astronauts, but all three would have had the opportunity to use this controller grip while flying the Command Module during Apollo 11, depending on mission stage and seating arrangement. “Rot Control #1 Handle” is one of only three tangible pieces of hardware, actually used to fly the Apollo 11 spacecraft, known to exist in private hands—the other rotational attitude controller grip, and the translational hand controller grip, were all retained by NASA Production Control Engineer William R. Whipkey and subsequently sold at auction. Besides these grips and and an exterior EVA handle, there are no other known pieces of critical Apollo 11 hardware in public hands.

Among his other duties, Bill Whipkey was responsible for purchasing the items that were carried on the Apollo missions, including flags foreign and domestic. A skilled woodworker, Whipkey also created many displays and presentation pieces for the astronauts using flown materials—such as the walnut display stand made for this controller grip.

The Apollo 11 moon landing stands as mankind's most extraordinary achievement, marking the pinnacle of American ingenuity and determination. With the pioneering moonwalks of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, humanity transcended earthly bounds and stepped foot on another celestial body for the first time in history. The mission's successful return marked the culmination of a daring journey that captivated the world and fulfilled President Kennedy's promise 'of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth' by the end of the 1960s. Playing a significant role in that safe return was this hand controller grip, which allowed precise control of the spacecraft's orientation during critical maneuvers such as docking and re-entry. A remarkable and most historic space-flown piece.

- Ex. Personal Collection of William R. Whipkey.
- Sold to a private collector via Aurora Galleries, Lot 454, April 24, 2004.
- Sold to Rally as Buzz Aldrin’s controller from the right hand seat  via Julien's Auctions, Lot 795, July 18, 2020; the other flown Apollo 11 rotational hand controller grip, as well as the flown Apollo 11 translation controller grip, were auctioned in the same sale. Rally's purchase agreement with Julien's was registered with the SEC on August 20, 2020.
- Rally, an alternative asset investment platform for buying and selling equity shares in collectibles, securitized the flown Apollo 11 grip and, in October 2020, sold 10,000 shares in it to investors worldwide.
- On March 14, 2024, shareholders voted to sell the grip in RR Auction's April 2024 Space & Aviation sale.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Space Exploration and Aviation
  • Dates: March 25, 2024 - April 25, 2024