By Barry Courter
Associate Features Editor
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, a lot of Americans began taking a new look at the stars.
Among them was a young Tracy Knauss. He's been star gazing ever since.
The creation of NASA and the challenge three years later from President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s created a lot of interest in space, astrology, astronomy and the technology surrounding the NASA missions.
When Gemini 4 astronauts took Tang along with them in 1965, the fruit drink became a household staple.
Mr. Knauss, 56, was among thousands of baby boomers who began following the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions and collecting anything and everything space-related. Mr. Knauss took things further than most and today has three "huge foot lockers in a bank vault" full of rare items.
He displays them through a local museum about once a decade, he said.
Among them are newspapers -- professionally bound -- from all 50 states detailing the initial lunar landing in 1969.
"Not only are the newspapers interesting because of the landing coverage, but they are a slice of Americana because of the ads. They show what America was like," Mr. Knauss said.
He also made a 24-hour audio tape of the television coverage on 3/4-inch tape and figured out how to take snapshots of the televisions screens.
"My most prized possession is on acid-free paper," he said. "I have all 12 moonwalkers' signatures." He believes it is the only sheet of paper in existence with all 12 signatures.
Van Overbay, 40, was a young child on vacation with his family in Daytona, Fla., during one of the last Apollo launches, and the experience piqued his interest in the space program. He built and collected model rockets and spaceships throughout his youth.
When "Apollo 13" hit movie theaters in 1995, it rekindled a passion among collectors, including Mr. Overbay. He put his career in advertising and design and his love for space and history to use and created a board game called Moon Shot.
"It's based on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, but it ties in other events in history," he said. "I've wrapped in Chuck Yeager and the Wright brothers. People forget that in less than 70 years, we went from Kitty Hawk to the moon."
The game has been retooled somewhat and renamed Tranquility Base. It currently is available through his Web site at www.historyinactiongame.com.
For both men, the space program represents the human spirit.
"It was just a really fun, idealistic time for America," Mr. Knauss said. "It was a time of innocence when we didn't lock our doors, but it also was a time of great triumph."
E-mail Barry Courter at email@example.com
Tracy Knauss owns what he believes is the only piece of paper in the world with signatures of all 12 men who have walked on the moon.