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    Neil Armstrong, Scott Carpenter, and Isaac Asimov: Signed "Staff Biographies and Course Offerings" Booklet Obtained during the 1973 "African Eclipse Cruise." Between June 22 and July 8, 1973, more than 2500 interested passengers, scientist, and professors sailed aboard the Cunard ship Canberra to Africa to view, on June 30th, one of the longest total solar eclipses of modern times as well as to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicholas Copernicus. Most were there to learn and dozens of distinguished lecturers in many fields were along to satisfy that thirst for knowledge. The two lecturers in the category of "Modern Exploration" were Neil Armstrong and Scott Carpenter. Who better than the second American to orbit the earth and the first man to walk on the moon? In the category of "History and Philosophy of Science," the lecturer was the science fact/fiction author Isaac Asimov. These three legends all signed the twenty-page, 6.5" x 9.5" biography booklet for a couple that were along on the cruise: "Neil Armstrong", "Isaac Asimov", and "Scott Carpenter". A number of other leading lights in various fields also have signed the booklet near their individual biographies: Dr. "Franklyn M. Branley" (Chairman-on-Leave of the American Museum - Hayden Planetarium, New York); Dr. "Edward M. Brooks" (Professor of Geophysics at Boston College); Dr. "Myrl C. Hendershott" (Physical Oceanographer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography); Dr. "Fred C. Hess" (Professor at New York's Maritime College); Dr. "J. Allen Hynek" (Director of the Dearborn Observatory and Chairman of the Astronomy Dept. at Northwestern University); "Leif J. Robinson" (Associate Editor of Sky and Telescope Magazine); Dr. "Charles H. Smiley" (Retired Chairman of the Astronomy Dept. at Brown University); and Dr. "G L Verschuur" (Associate scientist for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory). The booklet is in fine condition with a tiny stain on the Armstrong biography page, not affecting the signature.

    Included with this booklet is a large archive of material relating to and collected during this cruise. Snapshot photos of Neil Armstrong giving a lecture and Isaac Asimov signing autographs and enjoying the trip are included. Isaac Asimov later wrote extensively about this cruise in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt. Please visit our website for passages from that book about the cruise, mentioning Armstrong and Carpenter.


    More Information:

    From In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov 1954-1978 by Isaac Asimov (New York: Doubleday, 1980, page 19):

    On June 22, 1973, I got on the ship. Marcy Sigler, Phil's vivacious and good-looking wife, came to the apartment house to make sure I was coming and personally saw me on board.

    The ship was the Canberra which was much larger than the Statendam. Among the notables on board were two of the astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Scott Carpenter. With Scott was his clever young wife, Maria. Also present were Walter Sullivan, Frank Branley of the Hayden Planetarium, and George Hamilton of the Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia.

    Unlike the Statendam cruise, this one was filled to capacity. There were twenty-five hundred passengers aboard, all involved with the eclipse, and I think the only empty bed on the ship was one of the two in my room, the one that Janet was to have occupied.

    There were seven at our table: the Carpenters, the Sullivans, the Branleys, and myself. Janet was to have made the eighth, but her chair remained empty throughout the trip.

    It was a hectic table, for I had to keep my mind off Janet, and I did it by a constant running fire of conversation, jokes, and double-entendres. The others naturally rose to the occasion, particularly Maria Carpenter, so that the table was by far the noisiest in the place.

    For that matter, I kept the whole cruise in a continual state of excitement, for I was in an overflowing state of effervescence.

    I gave four talks on the history of astronomy -all of them off the cuff, but using my book The Universe as raw material. I gave each of them twice, since otherwise there was no possibility of reaching the entire audience.

    I was also part of a seminar at one point, and during the course of it, I said, "At the table where I'm sitting-and as luck would have it, I was placed at the nosiest table on the ship."

    Walter Sullivan, who was also part of the seminar, stared at me in horror as I said that, and cried out, indignantly, "But Isaac, you're the one who makes it noisy."

    "Ah," I said, "that explains it. I wondered why I was always at the noisiest table wherever I go."

    At another point during that seminar someone in the audience asked me if I had read an article on tachyons in Saturday Review, and with great satisfaction I was able to reply, "Read it, sir? I wrote it."

    Neil Armstrong was at the next table, and he had the most charming ten-year-old son, intelligent, lively, freckle-faced..

    One time at dinner, the young Armstrong boy came over and said, "Listen! What word has the letter combination XYZXYZX?"

    We had been playing word games, but this one stopped us cold. For some ten minutes, an absolute silence hung over the table as all seven of us tried to think of a seven-letter word with that pattern of letters. I thought of "Sensens," the trade name of a preparation sold to mask bad breath in my youth, rather like "Tic-Tac" today. That was a proper noun, however.

    Finally, I decided to go through the alphabet and see if I could think of the word by a systematic search through my mind. I began with A and instantly the word popped into my head.

    And just as instantly, I threw up my hands and shrieked, "ALFALFA!!!" The scream resounded through the large dining room and the whole enormous room fell silent. (The Armstrong youngster said he was thinking of entente, but I told him that was French and "alfalfa" was much better)



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    Auction Dates
    November, 2012
    2nd Friday
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