The Apollo 11 mission was launched July 16, 1969, and four days later, on July 20, commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin stepped on the lunar surface. Another pilot, Michael Collins, manoeuvred the lunar module in orbit alone and did not set foot upon the moon.
Collector Nikunj Shah, who lives in Santacruz, has amassed an array of items concerning Apollo 11. “There is a tiny swatch of insulation from the spacecraft Columbia, first day covers, a medallion made from the metal of the spaceship, autographed photos of the astronauts and moon maps. The then US President Richard Nixon held a formal felicitation for the team in Los Angeles on August 13, 1969. I have the formal dinner invitation, seating chart and menu of that function. In fact, the Indian ambassador to the US, Ali Yavar Jung, and his wife were invited and allotted table number 127,” said Shah. An Apollo 11 edition of ‘Life’ magazine is among his treasure trove.
Shah has sourced most items from the Leon Ford collection over the past eight years, although the first item came to him by chance in 1969 itself. “My uncle was a student in America in 1969 and he sent me a copy of the `Los Angeles Times’ that covered the moon landing on July 21,” he said.
Numismatist Malcolm Todywalla said, “The reason that Shah’s collectibles look as good as new is because he has sourced them from abroad where people preserve items knowing their historical and resale value. He has built up a treasure of exceptional grade since eight years and kept it in pristine condition.”
Another golden jubilee enthusiast, Dahisar-based photographer Tony Thottan, was a 25-year-old freelancer who had shot pictures of the three cosmonauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins when they arrived in Mumbai as part of a world tour in October 1969. “I have retained the official badge of entry given by the American consulate. I shot them upon arrival at Mumbai airport, then trailed them to a grand meeting at Azad Maidan where over five lakh people were present. The astronauts had excitedly climbed a replica of the Eagle that had been placed there by the Americans. After that they addressed a press conference at the Taj Mahal Palace,” he said, showing old black and white prints of each stop in the journey.