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Snaps from space: Astronauts' photographs go on sale

Vintage prints of pictures taken by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and others to be auctioned by Bloomsbury in London

They often used Hasselblad cameras from Sweden modified only by the addition of a bigger button to press, but then taking pictures when you are an astronaut in a bulky, pressurised suit is clearly tricky.

Many of the astronauts' early space photographs have become extremely famous, more for their otherworldly beauty than their scientific value.

And now some are to appear in the UK's first dedicated sale of vintage Nasa photographs.

Bloomsbury Auctions in London has announced details of the first specialist sale of images showing how man came to land on the moon.

"We are thrilled," said Sarah Wheeler, Bloomsbury's photographs specialist.

"What we are offering are historic artefacts – rare, iconic, vintage photographs taken by the astronauts themselves and printed within days of their return to Earth and very different from today's downloadable images."

More than 280 photographs, with estimated values ranging from £200 to £10,000, will be auctioned. They have been collected over decades by Frenchman Victor Martin-Malburet, who has exhibited them in Paris and Saint-Etienne.

Some of the most striking images in the collection are of Ed White's spacewalk in 1965, part of the Gemini 4 mission.

White was the first American to walk in space. His walk was photographed by fellow astronaut James McDivitt – who was looking out of the craft without really being able to see what he was shooting at.

"He was remarkably successful considering he couldn't really frame the pictures," said a Bloomsbury spokesman.

Other highlights include the first view of Earth from the moon, taken on 23 August 1966 and shown publicly on 10 September.

It is a grainy image but the technological feat of making it happen at all should not be underestimated – the pictures were taken by an unmanned satellite which also developed them and sent them back to Earth as radio waves.

There are also images of a Gemini 12 spacewalk by Buzz Aldrin in November 1966 including one taken by the astronaut himself – using his modified Hasselblad with the big button – which Bloomsbury has billed as the "first self-portrait in space".

One of the most recognisable images is Earthrise, taken by William Anders on Christmas Eve in 1968 from Apollo 8.

Anders explained that they had spent all their time on Earth studying the moon and when they got there, they could see a fragile and delicate-looking Earth.

"I was immediately almost overcome by the thought that we came all this way to the moon, and yet the most significant thing we're seeing is our own home planet, the Earth."

And of course there is Apollo 11 – the mission that landed the first men on the moon – and photographs by Aldrin of his footprints.

Because flight leader Neil Armstrong was often taking the photographs, there are not many pictures of him. But there is the famous image Armstrong took of Aldrin in which he is reflected in Aldrin's goldplated visor.

The photographs are all vintage prints – made soon after the event depicted. The more expensive ones are the large-format prints that were often presented to scientists or dignitaries. The sale takes place on 3 November. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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