Exceptional "Kodak Paper" Photograph of the First American to Explore Space
Alan Shepard is here pictured with the American flag, having just exited the lunar module to take his first steps on the moon. Shepard was previously the first American in space when he traveled aboard the Freedom 7 in 1961 shortly following Yuri Gagarin. Subsequently, he was grounded for several years due to inner ear problems but was able to return in time for the Apollo Moon missions. He was selected to join Apollo 14. They landed in the Fra Mauro Highlands, and here he is photographed by Edgar Mitchell moments after they started extravehicular activities.
This photograph was printed in February 1971 or shortly thereafter.
A similar example sold in the Space Photography Online sale at Sotheby's for $1,000 in 2019.
This is red-letter photograph number AS14-66-9232.
Apollo 14 was the third Apollo mission to reach the moon and the first immediately following the disastrous Apollo 13 mission. This mission targeted the same area as the ill-fated previous one: the Fra Mauro highlands. This was the first mission to land in lunar highlands and, as such, provided new scientific insights.
The mission was conducted by Alan Shephard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa, the first two of which landed on the moon while the third remained in lunar orbit. The presence of Alan Shephard in a space crew is notable as he was the first American in space. He had been grounded for several years due to inner ear problems and had been cleared to fly again two years prior to this 1971 mission. Upon landing, his first words were "and it's been a long way, but we're here."
This mission was the last of the "H-missions," two-day lunar missions. The final three lunar missions would be three-day ventures, involving slightly more sophisticated technology. During this mission, Shepherd and Mitchell ended up spending 33.5 hours on the moon, 9.5 of which outside the lander. In addition to scientific pursuits, Shepherd shot some golf with a makeshift golf club and two balls he had brought from earth, recorded in a video that still captivates the world.
Targeting the highlands was useful as the previous two missions had both landed in "mares," expansive young basaltic planes. Highlands appeared very different to astronomers, but their exact histories were unknown. The Fra Mauro highlands were targeted due to the presence of the Cone Crater, a recent impact that provided a natural borehole.
The samples collected by this mission were of particular geological importance for the insights they provided on meteoric history and surface flows of the moon. The samples were mostly breccia, a type of rock that can be produced by meteoritic impacts, useful for showing Fra Mauro was formed as a result of impact ejecta. The rocks collected in this area were substantially older than those collected in the mare areas of previous missions. These samples helped to put a lower bound on the age of the moon, much older than the age suggested measuring lunar retreat.
One of the samples collected by this rock, nicknamed "Big Bertha," was later shown to be a likely earth-sourced meteorite. This is determined from the presence of evolved minerals such as quartz and feldspar, in addition to the isotopic signatures of zircons. Dated to approximately four billion years, this ranks as one of the oldest terrestrial rocks, slightly younger than the 4.28 billion-year-old date given for the formation of the protoliths for some Canadian metamorphic rocks. Crucially, this rock has not been altered to such a high extent. This provides scientists with extensive information about the early earth, complementing the information gained from studying terrestrial rocks. If life already existed by the time this meteorite was ejected from the earth, it would have been able to survive the short moonward journey and would be an early short-lived example of extraterrestrial life.
During all the early NASA missions, and in particular the Apollo Lunar missions, various vintage NASA photographs were taken. These include some exceptionally famous images, such as the first witnessed earthrise or Buzz Aldrin's footstep, some of which we have had in the past.
Most authentic vintage NASA photographs have the text "A KODAK PAPER" printed as a watermark on the verso. For this reason, we will show both the front and back of the photograph for any Kodak Paper photographs we sell.
The copies preserved vary widely in size. The 8 by 10 inch photos are the smallest, and authentic ones have red, black, or blue lettering in the upper left-hand corner referring to the mission, magazine, and frame number. As the size of the photos grow, they become rarer. Smaller format photographs were distributed to Boeing or NASA employees, while larger photographs were generally used by scientists or presented to foreign dignitaries.
These are some of the most evocative photos ever taken. Some of them portray a place only a dozen people have ever seen. The desolation and quiet that can be seen in these photos makes them such unique works. As scientists become closer to putting someone on Mars, and photos from other planets are published from sources like Curiosity or Voyager, the power of these early photographs only grows.