Neil Armstrong's widow committed her astronaut husband's ashes to the Atlantic Ocean this week, in many ways bringing an era to a close. Men who walked on the moon are still alive -- Buzz Aldrin, for example -- but the first man to do so is gone. It is an odd feeling for those of us who remember that first step in August 1969.
We were talking about life insurance in our last post, focusing on how Armstrong, Aldrin and their colleagues planned to provide for their families if the moon shots went awry. Life insurance, if available at all, would have been too expensive to afford. Completing an application for trip insurance could have been interesting: destination moon, distance 238,900 miles each way. Instead, the astronauts came up with a way to capitalize on their fame and the prestige of the Apollo program.
They created "insurance covers" by autographing envelopes and postmarking them on important mission dates, like the launch date or the date of the moon landing. They knew the autographs were valuable, so the three Apollo 11 astronauts set to work on a collection that would work a little like trading cards.
The three men signed 214 envelopes that would accompany them on the mission. There were three basic styles: the Apollo 11 mission emblem, which was an eagle landing on the moon with Earth rising in the background; the Project Apollo Dow-Unicover, a graphic depiction of the astronauts and a man's feet walking on the moon surface; and the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Stamp Club cover, a depiction of astronauts working on the moon's surface under the Apollo 11 emblem. There was enough space on the cover for a personal message or dedication.
Each of these featured one of two designs of a six-cent postage stamp. The cancelation date was August 11, the first day any items from the mission could leave quarantine.
Those were just the insurance covers that went to the moon. Another thousand just like them except without space for a personal message stayed behind. These were canceled on launch day, the day the Eagle landed on the moon or other mission milestone dates.
Each of the families received a share of the insurance covers, in theory worth enough to warrant stuffing them in a mattress. Fortunately, the families didn't have to sell them, because the crew returned.
The flown covers have sold for as much as $46,000. Others have fetched up to $30,000. And the remaining missions followed Apollo 11's lead, creating their own covers and adding unsigned covers to the collection.
So, for the price of a cramped hand and a little room in the crew's luggage, the astronauts' families had their make-shift life insurance policies. And they never had to deal with claim departments or offers to bundle their auto policy with their life insurance coverage.
Source: Discovery News, "Apollo 11's Unconventional Life Insurance Policies," Amy Shira Teitel, Sept. 5, 2012
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