While the Apollo program may be the greatest achievement in human history, it was also super morbid. Sending people to the moon was an extremely dangerous mission and so there were plenty of contingency plans for if and when people passed away.
Think Richard Nixon’s famous, unread ‘In Event of Moon Disaster‘ speech, and many others.
However it wasn’t just Presidential speechwriters who prepared for the event that the Moon-bound astronauts would not return – insurance companies had their doubts as well.
Insurers reportedly wanted to charge as much as $US50,000 per year (over $300,000 today) for life insurance, which was almost treble Neil Armstrong’s annual salary.
Armstrong was obviously concerned he would not be returning from space – if, indeed, he even made it off the launch pad alive – and wanted a way to provide for his family in the event he did not survive.
So he got creative.
Aware that he and his crew were famous, and their fame would grow in the event they succeeded in making the moon but not in returning, he decided they should create their own souvenirs.
In the month leading up to the mission’s launch, the three astronauts were put in quarantine. One activity they used to pass was autographing ‘covers’ – official, NASA-created, mission-specific envelopes.
Having signed what has been estimated as hundreds each, the men sent the covers en masse to a friend with the instruction to mail the covers to the astronauts’ families on significant days in the mission, such as the day of the launch and the day the eagle landed. That way, each of the covers was given extra authenticity, having been post-marked with a relevant day from the mission.
In the sad event disaster struck, the astronauts’ families would have a stack of memorabilia which could hopefully provide a comparable payout to a life-insurance policy for a fraction the cost.
Obviously Armstrong and his crew, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, returned from Earth as heroes, and signed plenty of autographs in the years that followed, seemingly flooding the market with moon-men memorabilia.
But the actual covers began turning up some 20 years later and the rich story behind them has seen them, NPR reports, for as much as $US30,000 each.