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Press Release - May 13, 2021

NASA Mercury Mission Headset Crosses the Block at Heritage Auctions

From the private collection of Chris Kraft, NASA's first Flight Director and the creator of Mission Control

 Chris Kraft's Personal Western Electric Bell System 52 Headset as Used on the First Manned Mercury Missions
DALLAS, Texas (May 13, 2021) – Has anyone ever felt so strong a need to connect through a call from home?

To say the astronauts aboard the Mercury missions, the first manned spaceflights conducted by NASA between 1961 and 1963, were in uncharted territory is an immeasurable understatement. Space travel had been the subject of dreams and study for years, but imagine being Alan Shepard, who rode the Mercury space capsule Freedom 7 on a 15-minute, suborbital flight that covered 302 miles, or the first manned flight in orbit, the Feb. 20, 1962 Freedom 7 mission commanded by John Glenn.

Those astronauts' lifeline back to NASA was their communication with Chris Kraft, NASA's first Flight Director and the creator of Mission Control, which now bears his name. During the first voyages to space, astronauts spoke to Craft through his Personal Western Electric "Bell System 52" Headset as Used on the First Manned Mercury Missions, Directly from His Estate, with Extensive Photographic Provenance and Certificate of Authenticity (estimate: $3,500+), which will be offered for the first time in Heritage Auctions' Space Exploration Auction May 21-22.

 Chris Kraft's Personal Western Electric Bell System 52 Headset as Used on the First Manned Mercury Missions
Dubbed "the headset that launched America into space," this 1950s vintage telephone operator's headset, fully adjustable with one earpiece (bearing Dymo label "C.C. KRAFT") and attached microphone, was the one Kraft wore while communicating with astronauts on space missions, and it was of significant personal importance to him. He specifically wanted to keep this headset as a souvenir from those first space flights, trips that were as important as any in the history of aviation.

"It would be virtually impossible to overstate the importance of this headset and its role in the NASA space program," Heritage Auctions Space Exploration Consignment Director Brad Palmer said. "It's difficult to imagine how thin the connection to home must have felt for those first astronauts on the initial Mercury missions. That connection literally went through this headset, and kept those astronauts connected to one of the most impactful pioneers of space travel."

The headset will be accompanied by ample evidence of its history, in the form of 53 glossy black and white 8-by-10-inch photos of Kraft wearing this headset, including on the cover of his memoir, Flight: My Life in Mission Control. The images are from Kraft's personal archives, and most were taken at Mercury Control Center during astronaut Gus Grissom's MR-4 flight. The photos would be a considerable prize to serious space collectors: it is believed that very few of these have ever been seen by the public.

For images and information on all lots in this auction, visit

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world's largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

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Steve Lansdale, Public Relations Specialist

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