It was one of my earliest elementary-school book reports; maybe one of yours, too. We Seven, published in 1962. Because, you know, astronauts! Or maybe I hadn’t yet read a book about firemen.
The landmark tome, which Tom Wolfe cites in the endnotes for his own epic The The Right Stuff in 1979, contained the first-hand accounts of the Project Mercury pilots before the seven men had been elevated to full-blown myths – most of them, anyway. Their names you know: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald “Deke” Slayton. Names from the past; test pilots turned spacemen; guides to a future we’ve still yet to explore.
It was reissued only this year, for the first time in a long time. First-edition copies of We Seven are rare, but not all that difficult to find. Copies signed by some or all of the Mercury Seven are also out there – four years ago, Heritage Auctions sold one for $3,125.
The book has also become a sort of autograph scrapbook for collectors of astronauts’ scribbles: In 2011, we made available a copy signed by 14 of the first 16 spacemen, as well as three of the NASA men who got the men off the ground and into the history books. It sold for $5,078.
But now, in Friday’s Space Exploration Signature Auction, comes an even more spectacular offering:
A first edition-first printing of We Seven signed by 32 astronauts – from the man who piloted Freedom 7, Alan Shepard; to the first man to step on the moon, Neil Armstrong; to the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, the most successful failed mission in NASA’s history.
The men who signed this book are themselves subjects of countless tomes. Members of crews who made those rare sojourns into space back when it looked like the New Frontier was our forever home.
This copy of We Seven bears full-crew signatures of all Mercury flights (of course), Gemini 3, Gemini 5, Gemini 6A, Gemini 7, Gemini 8, Gemini 10, Gemini 11, Gemini 12, Apollo 1, Apollo 7, Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab I.
These are the names handwritten inside: Shepard, Cooper, Glenn, Schirra, Grissom, Carpenter, Slayton, Armstrong, Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, Ed White, Ken Mattingly, Rusty Schweickart, Roger Chaffee, Frank Borman, Charles Conrad Jr., Dick Gordon, Dave Scott, Donn Eisele, Walter Cunningham, John Young, Ron Evans, Tom Stafford, Bill Pogue, Paul Weitz, Michael Collins, Don Lind, Alan Bean, Vance Brand, Al Worden, Joe Kerwin and Joe Engle.
“It is a truly incredible piece,” says Michael Riley, Director of Heritage Auctions’ Space Exploration. “A complete space autograph collection in one volume.”
The right stuff. For the right owner.