According tomedia reports, Julien’s Auctions will auction three Apollo 11 artifacts as part of its Legends and Explorers auction on July 17 and 18, 2020. Three of the hand-controls were used to operate the famous Columbia Command And Service Module (CSM) during the first manned mission to the moon in July 1969, and each is expected to cost between $80,000 and $200,000.
One of the frustrating things about the Apollo 11 mission is that there are very few surviving artifacts in one of the greatest events in human history, leaving the first footprints on the moon. So when the three hand-controllers used to fly their lunar spacecraft, such as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, appear on the market, it is sure to attract attention.
As it was auctioned separately, the items at the auction included two rotary hand controllers (RHCs) from Armstrong and Aldrin stations and a converted hand controller (THC) from Armstrong. RHC looks like a simple joystick, such as the game console one might see, and the THC looks like a plastic T, but these are the tip of a very esoteric technology “iceberg”.
In 1969, these hand-controllers were the driving interface of the most advanced telex system of the time. Their aim is to override Columbia’s autopilot, allowing astronauts to maneuver precisely, such as docking with the lunar module (LM). Essentially, they function the same as the aircraft’s controls, but in vacuum space they are replaced by a set of reaction-control thrusters in the service module for in-flight control, while another group in the command module is used to handle re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere at the end of the mission after separation from the service module.
The whole system is the result of nearly a decade of work. Initially, NASA engineers wanted to use pedals for some control, as they did on airplanes, but soon found that the small compartments, the heavy load, and the spacesuits worn by astronauts made them impractical, so they chose hand control. In addition, through the Gemini task, it was decided to remove all mechanical controls and switch to electronic control.
About 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) tall and located below Armstrong’s right hand, connected to an electronic control box, which, by today’s standards, is quite bulky and consists of three rotary variable differential transformers and 18 microswitches. These inputs are attached to the CSM attitude control system in the same bulky control cable sheath. The THC under The Mission Commander Armstrong’s left hand has a similar arrangement.
By tilting THE RHC forward or backward, Armstrong or other astronauts from their workstation can make Columbia tilt up or down. Tilt the joystick to the left or right makes the ship roll to the left or right, while the torsion joystick allows the ship to be yawd to the left or right. At the same time, THC moves the spacecraft in space. Push the handle to the left or right, up or down, pushing the aircraft along the desired axis, while the push handle moves forward or backward in or out. For both controls, the distance they are moved controls the thruster accordingly. As a result, in zero gravity, the control system is very fine, the reaction time is very fast, very complex.
Armstrong’s USE OF THE RHC, like the RHC used by Aldrin, is expected to sell for between $100,000 and $200,000. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s THC is expected to fetch between $80,000 and $100,000. Each one is in a wooden display box with a NASA official removal label on September 22, 1969.