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Featured item: The archive of Dr. Wernher von Braun

Prescient articles, drawings show future of space exploration

RR Auction’s weeklong Space auction (through April 19) features a historic, museum-worthy archive that was ahead of its time in predicting man’s trajectory into space exploration.

This superb lot contains 26 items by Dr. Wernher von Braun related to the iconic “Man Will Conquer Space Soon!” series, which appeared in Collier’s Magazine between 1952 and 1954. The astounding archive is comprised of 17 drawings and schematics, two orbital diagrams, four calculations and graph plots, and three autograph letters. All relate to four of the Collier’s articles: Crossing the Last Frontier; Man on the Moon: The Journey; Man on the Moon: The Exploration; and Baby Space Station. The magazines are also included.

Von Braun prepared the original drawings in this archive as reference materials for magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep, and most are evident as the direct inspiration for the illustrations that grace the pages of Collier’s in the “Man Will Conquer Space Soon!” series. Von Braun’s skillful drawings are filled with engineering detail to provide the illustrators with scientifically accurate renderings of the spaceships of the future.

In its introduction to the series, Collier’s makes clear: “What you will read here is not science fiction.” Von Braun’s vision was not only fantastic, but scientifically viable; his copious scientific notes and calculations are proof.

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ALS Autograph letter signed Dr. Wernher von Braun archive RR Auction
Autograph letter signed (pg. 2), by Dr. Wernher von Braun. Offered as part of an archive by RR Auction.

Series drew widespread attention to von Braun’s vision

The Collier’s series drew widespread attention to von Braun’s vision of manned spaceflight. After the success of the first issue, he appeared on TV and radio shows around the nation to discuss the subject. He was soon recruited by Walt Disney, and served as a technical advisor for three TV films about space exploration between 1955 and 1957. These broadcasts brought the idea of the space program into American living rooms nationwide.

For the first time, Americans had a vision of space travel not out of Buck Rogers, but grounded in scientific reality as envisioned by the central figure of the coming Space Age.

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Bidding in RR’s Space auction ends April 19.

The archive sold for $98,644.

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