In Seattle, the Museum of Flight (aka ‘the Boeing Museum’ to the locals) has several major aircraft collections, going back to WW I, and forward all the way to today’s SpaceX and Blue Horizon.
The museum also hosts many of the luminaries of aviation and the space program as they visit the area for whatever reason. This includes current and former astronauts. Here are the books by Gene Cernan of Gemini 9 and Apollo 10 and 17 (may he rest in peace), and Jim Lovell of Gemini 7 and 12 and Apollo 8 and 13. Both spoke at the museum on different occasions and told of their adventures, longing for the space program to find its way again…
… and then signed their respective books.
The museum also has the actual drone that helped rescue Captain Philips of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates in real life (dramatized in the Tom Hanks movie)
A couple of years ago, the museum had an event to commemorate Skylab, which included a fantastic panel discussion that included flight controller Sy Liebergot, astronaut Jerry Carr, administrator Glynn Lunney, and Jerry Bostick of Apollo 13 mission control. Also on the panel were Soviet cosmonauts Valery Kubasov, and Aleksei Leonov, the first man to EVA.
My sons and I had the good fortune to shake hands with them as they signed their book about Skylab, The Partnership.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this book in time for the event, which was still in a box someplace.
… a classic piece of Soviet propaganda about Leonov’s space walk – but I asked him if I could mail it to him to autograph, and we had a laugh over that.
In reality, Mr Leonov was nearly killed during his EVA. He was stuck in the tubular structure that served as the ‘atrium’ at the door of his spacecraft, as his suit expanded and trapped him inside the tube. Fascinating story – he took 20 minutes to tell it before a rapt audience at the museum.
Also on the panel was Charles Simonyi, who wrote the original Microsoft Word and became one of the first private citizens to buy his way into space.
So, my take-aways. First, if you are in a city where there is any kind of aerospace industry presence, or better, a museum where you can become a member, watch for visiting speakers.
Second, virtually all of the astronauts, through the Apollo program as well as many of the Shuttle astronauts, wrote books. Third, always look in the ‘aviation’ and ‘biography’ sections of your local second-hand book stores – it’s amazing what you will find, including signed first editions.
My second autographed copy of Jim Lovell’s book (the basis for the movie Apollo 13) was found at Half Price Books in Tukwila Washington for seven bucks, and the cashier had no idea what it was when I showed her.
This collection began with a copy of Skunk Works by Ben Rich, followed by Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, both found in book stores. Not long after buying those books, we moved to Seattle, and therefore, near to the Museum of Flight.
These books are becoming quite collectible, and I didn’t pay more than the cover price for any of them (usually less, used).