An upcoming auction of space memorabilia at Swann Galleries features a number of unusual specimens of paper ephemera which have miraculously survived the last half-century of American (and Soviet) space exploration. Who designed them? Among them are two brochure coversfrom 1969 and 1972 respectivelydocumenting the journeys of Apollo 11 and 16. It's not the miniature American flags that are unusual: after all, the image of Neil Armstrong skewering a lunar crater with an American-made flagpole has become one of the more permanent images with which so many of us remember these comparatively early days of astro-pioneering. But what of the ornate Victorian typesetting? Perhaps the anonymous designer(s) of these booklets believed that NASA's ambitions in space were simply an extension of the Westward expansion that had typified gold rush America. (A few weeks ago we discovered water on Mars. So much for the gold rush.) Pioneering as a nomadic, cultural ideal remains perhaps lodged in the American consciousness: as such, it is perhaps worthy of its own typographic bias. But somehow, it remains a bizarre and somewhat counterintuitive choice a visual oxymoron.
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