Electrocardiograms (EKGs) aren’t normally worth much more than the paper they are printed on. But it’s a different story when the EKG is a record of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s heartbeat at the moment of his historic first step on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969–a first for mankind. The last time this famous piece of moon memorabilia was sold at auction it fetched $12,500.
On May 16, a New Hampshire auction house will start accepting bids on the EKG strip, just six inches long, that was generated at mission control at the exact moment of Armstrong’s “giant step for mankind” onto the moon’s surface. According to his heart monitor, he was remarkably calm.
RR Auction’s presentation sheet, to which the artifact is attached, reads, “EKG Recordings Taken as Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong Took Man’s First Step on the Moon” and records the time as “4:13:24:28 Ground Elapsed Time.” The sheet is signed in pencil, “The heartbeats that made this accomplishment possible as recorded at MCC on my console. Keep up your heart work. Charles A. Berry, M.D.” Armstrong’s autopen signature also appears on the sheet. The auction house, based in Amherst, New Hampshire, will hold the auction online.
Geologist Gerald Schaber, who had the job of monitoring Armstrong’s heartbeat during that breathtaking moment of man’s first-ever step onto the soil of an alien world, recalled the astronaut’s impressive composure in a comment to PCMag.com:
“But that was typical of Neil. Just like the first thing he really said was, ‘Houston we have engine shut down here,’ really calmly. Mission control told him to speak again. It was then he said, ‘The eagle has landed,’ for the TV networks. He was just that cool.”
Prior to his position at mission control monitoring Armstrong’s heart rate, Schaber was one of two geologists tasked with recreating the moon’s landscape in a giant volcanic field in Arizona and instructing Armstrong and Aldrin on geology in preparation for their historic space flight. Employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, he and fellow geologist “Red” Bailey blasted 143 craters with explosives, tested lunar vehicles, and tried out jet packs.
Jay Walker, curator and chairman of TEDMED, a multidisciplinary organization devoted to improvements in health and medicine, displayed Armstrong partner Buzz Aldrin’s EKG in 2012. Taken as Armstrong and Aldrin were trying to find a place to park the Apollo 11 lunar module, it shows that Aldrin’s heart was beating a bit faster than normal.
Besides Armstrong’s EKG, the auction house is offering other space artifacts, including the joystick operated by the Apollo 11 astronauts in the command module. According to auction officials, over 85 lots of Apollo 11 items will be offered in the auction.
Armstrong died in Ohio this past August at age 82.
The auction will be held online from May 16 through May 23.