Toys to touch down
: Maisto Tech has been chosen by China's lunar exploration program to make toy models of the now in lunar orbit Chang'e 4 lander and rover. The toys, which are based on the first spacecraft to attempt a landing on the moon's far side, will feature motorized action (with an obstacle avoidance sensor), lights and sounds.
Spirit of Apollo
: NASA and the Smithsonian joined together at National Cathedral to mark 50 years since the first mission to fly humans to the moon. The Tuesday evening (Dec. 11) event, entitled "The Spirit of Apollo," featured Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell, who shared some of his own revelations made in lunar orbit and reflected on the reading from the Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve in 1968.
The Borman Collection
: Frank Borman, the commander of the first mission to fly humans to the moon, has donated his memorabilia to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). "The Borman Collection" debuted at the EAA Aviation Museum in Wisconsin on Saturday (Dec. 8), with a selection of the astronaut's Gemini 7 and Apollo 8 artifacts.
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To the far side
: China launched a probe and rover to the moon on Friday (Dec. 7), in a bid to become the first mission to explore the far side. The Chang'e 4 spacecraft lifted off on a Long March 3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. The mission is planned to land in the South Pole-Aitken Basin in early January.
: A new documentary film by the team that made "The Last Man on the Moon" focuses on the life of the first man to walk on the moon. "Armstrong" from Tin Goose Films uses archived and new interviews, as well as never-before-seen home videos from the astronaut's family, to deliver Neil Armstrong's story to the screen. The feature-length documentary is due out in 2019, in time for the 50th anniversary of Armstrong's Apollo 11 moon landing.
MOL astronaut enters orbit
: A new satellite pays tribute to America's first black astronaut 51 years after he died. The ENOCH satellite-sculpture by artist Tavares Strachan uses an ancient Egyptian tradition, combined with the rituals of Japan, to raise awareness of Robert H. Lawrence Jr., a test pilot and chemist who was chosen to train for the U.S. Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL).
Soyuz MS-11 launch
: Less than two months after the prior crew survived an inflight abort, the Soyuz MS-11 crew made it safely to orbit on Monday (Dec. 3). Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, astronaut Anne McClain of NASA and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques lifted off for the International Space Station, where they will serve on the Expedition 57 and 58 crews.
Moon rock market
: Sotheby's auction of the only known moon rocks to be collected from the lunar surface and be legally sold brought in $855,000 on Thursday (Nov. 29). The sale included three tiny pebbles returned to Earth by the former Soviet Union's Luna 16 probe in 1970, which were then gifted to "chief designer" Sergei Korolev's widow. The lot headlined Sotheby's Space Exploration auction that also sold a complete U.S. Gemini spacesuit for $162,500.
: Just launched, Retro 51's new Space Race Series of collectible pens puts a trio of iconic NASA rockets in writers' hands. Issued as a limited edition of 1958 each, the pens are styled after the Mercury-Redstone, Gemini-Titan II and Saturn V rockets that led up to and flew the first astronauts to the moon 50 years ago. Sales of the pens will benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
InSight's easter egg
: NASA's newest probe to land on Mars is focused on studying what cannot be seen, and includes a subtle nod to those without sight. The InSight lander has a message "coded" in braille on the calibration target for its robotic arm-mounted camera. The dots are the latest "easter egg" to be incorporated into the Mars landers managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
: A new timepiece pays tribute to the late astronaut-artist Alan Bean, 49 years after he landed on the moon. Shinola's Moon Bean wristwatch is designed with nods to the Apollo 12 mission and features an engraved caseback design based on one of Bean's paintings. Limited to 500 pieces, the Moon Bean is Shinola's latest release as part of its Great Americans Series.
: After two days and 700 items opened for bid, Heritage Auctions' sale of Neil Armstrong's collection brought in $5.2 million. Topping the auction was a spacecraft ID plate from the Apollo 11 lunar module that commanded nearly half a million dollars. Other lots blasting off included moon-flown pieces of the Wright Flyer, a larger than typical flown American flag and a Gemini-era flight suit worn by Armstrong. Two more Armstrong Family Collection sales are scheduled for May and November of next year.
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