This 1946 image of Earth was the first photograph taken in space. Clyde Holliday, who developed the camera that took this picture, wrote in National Geographic that this was "how our earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship."
In November 1966, NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin made history with the first selfie in space. It's a modest-size print, eight by ten, and in the frame you can see his eyes—the rest of his face is obscured by his helmet—and in the background, a slice of earth set against the blackness of space.
Aldrin's photo, along with nearly 700 vintage NASA images, will be offered for sale this week in London at a Bloomsbury Auctions' event entitled From the Earth to the Moon. The collection features many photos never released by NASA, including a series of mosaic-like images of the lunar landscape made from stitched-together smaller photos.
"It includes the first photograph from space taken from a V-2 rocket, and concludes with the final photograph taken by Apollo 17, which was the last [spacecraft] to go to the moon," a spokesman for the auction house said. "It is really encyclopedic. It also includes some extremely rare large-format photos."
The photos were assembled by a private collector who spent years acquiring them from NASA employees. For him, the thrill was in collecting, not owning.
"He had such a large collection, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to add anything," said the spokesman. "When he found he couldn't really add anything more, he felt: 'It's finished. I'll share it with other collectors and move on to something else.' "
The photos are rare documents of the golden age of American space exploration—and of space heroes.
"It's human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand," said astronaut Michael Collins, who flew two missions into space. "Exploration is not a choice, really; it's an imperative."