NEW YORK – A spacesuit from the United States' first manned flight programme, Project Mercury, will be offered in the Space History sale at Bonhams on April 8 (est. $8,000-12,000). Conducted between 1959 and 1963, Project Mercury aimed to put a human being into orbit around the earth. Millions followed the Mercury flights on the radio and on television, capturing the public's imagination while escalating the space race.
Mercury era spacesuits were essentially modified versions of the high altitude pressure suits used by the US Navy at the time. BF Goodrich manufactured the suits using a special fabric created by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M). Green nylon was coated with an aluminized powder, giving the Mercury era suits their iconic silver colouring. Bonhams will offer a beautiful example of a Phase 2 suit, made circa 1960, featuring crucial improvements that allowed for increased freedom of movement.
Cassandra Hatton, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Space History, reflected on the suit's appeal: "The Mercury spacesuit epitomises the earliest days of space exploration, a time when our world was a smaller place. A direct parallel can be drawn to the time when Columbus first set sail in 1492. No one knew if he would ever make it back, and one could only imagine what he would encounter on the voyage. It was a time of fear and wonder, and the Mercury era was exactly the same. Astronauts were regarded as heroes, doing what we all wished we had the courage to do, and risking their lives for the greater good of mankind. This suit is a symbol of that courage, and an important historic relic."
In addition to the iconic project Mercury suit, Bonhams will offer a Russian Strizh spacesuit, designed to protect cosmonauts from ejection at altitudes up to 30 kilometres and speeds up to Mach 3 (est. $15,000-20,000). The rare example is one of only 27 created for test and training purposes between 1981-1991, many of which were damaged or destroyed.
Bonhams will offer these and other exceptional spacesuits as part of the Space History sale on April 8 in New York. The sale will preview at Bonhams April 5-8.
A complete catalogue will be available at www.bonhams.com/auctions/21425/
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com