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Navy veteran discovers rare NASA, spy drone photos in trash

Treasure donated to American Space Museum

(WKMG) Yvette Quinn was convinced the list of aerospace engineers she discovered in a neighbor’s trash a few weeks ago was solid gold for international con men.

The Navy veteran said she was concerned because the list of scientists had secret and top secret clearance along with their Social Security numbers in plain view.

“Nothing less, nothing less," Quinn told KPRC Channel 2 News partner WKMG-TV, “and that was scary.”

Scary, she said, because all of it, including test results of early aerospace models and drones, was just sitting there, ripe for the taking.

What Quinn didn’t realize was the photos and manuals from the NASA space program jammed into those piles of papers would be the most important find of all.

Charles Jeffrey, a top space flight memorabilia appraiser for the American Space Museum in Titusville, Florida, said the find of the Gemini – Titan II press manual and the Titan manual tucked away in the stacks of photos was “history.”

“Yeah, you have history,” Jeffrey said. “They were designing some of the very first unmanned aircraft drones.”

The black-and-white photographs and test results were owned by G.H. Hampton, an aerospace engineer with Martin Marietta.

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Some of the documents, including a NASA Causeway pass for the STS-96 shuttle launch dated May 27, 1999, are handwritten and signed by Hampton.

Hampton apparently had access to rare NASA photos and artists' renderings, including a 1960s-era rendering of a lunar excursion vehicle that caught Jeffrey’s eye.

“One of the earliest designs for a vehicle to land on the moon is this lunar excursion model,” Jeffrey said. "We have the exact model at the American Space Museum.”

Jeffrey said he had never seen the rendering before.

WKMG traveled to the American Space Museum in Titusville to document the handcrafted wood model’s similarity to the artist's rendering.

It was a match.

WKMG general manager Jeff Hoffman approved donation of the Titan manuals, along with rare color and black-and-white artists’ renderings, which included a prototype for the space shuttle, a Mars spacecraft and the most prized item of all: the rare rendering of the lunar excursion model.

The director of the Space Museum, Tara Dixon Engel, said many of the unique materials donated to the museum are rescued from the trash.

“We are so grateful to you guys for taking the time to bring it out here and for talking to an expert to get a feel for exactly what this is,” Engel said.

Jeffrey said the items were worth just over $1,200.

The additional materials involving the drone tests at Martin Marietta “could be worth thousands,” he said.

Click or tap here for more information about the American Space Museum

This story was borrowed from KPRC Channel 2 News partner WKMG-TV.

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