It may look like an extra from Star Wars, but this remarkable NASA test robot now up for sale at RR Auction actually played a role in the real-life Space Race.
The hydraulically powered robot dummy was developed and built in the early 1960s by the IIT Research Institute in Chicago, as a means to test NASA spacesuits.
The dummy could simulate 35 basic human motions, such as swivelling its hips, raising and lowering its arms and legs, shrugging its shoulders, clenching its fists and even shaking hands.
It was designed to test the forces imposed on the human body by a pressurized suit, which would later be worn by Gemini Project astronauts, but despite the Institute’s best efforts, the robot’s hydraulic system couldn’t handle the pressure of these realistic movements and continually leaked, causing the testing to be scrapped.
Just two of the robot dummies were ever produced, with the first now owned by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The second was later sold as surplus by the University of Maryland and has obviously seen better days, as it’s now missing a forearm and hand and comes with half a century of dings and scratches.
Nevertheless, the robot remains a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance behind the mission to put human beings into space, and is now up for sale in an online auction where it’s expected to sell for more than $80,000.
The RR Auction sale is packed with further historic items spanning the length of aviation history, from a signed photograph of the Wright Brothers to the autographs of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and even a Robbins Medal flown into space and back aboard Apollo 17 by astronaut Dave Scott.
One of the sale’s most valuable lots, however, comes straight from the world of science fiction – a complete collection of the 1951 Bowman trading card set ‘Jets, Rockets, and Spacemen’.
Originally given away with packs of gum, the cards depict a vision of the future in which humans face aliens, robots, giant lizards and a surprising number of bears whilst exploring the galaxy. Not only does the collection include 108 cards, it also features 20 of the original artworks by artists from the George Moll Advertising Agency, from which the cards were created.
Ranked as the finest of its kind on the PSA trading card set registry, the collection is described as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for collectors" and is valued at $100,000+.
RR Auction’s Remarkable Rarities: Elite 100 sale opens for bidding on September 15, and runs until September 25.