The Apollo 11 astronauts signed autographs as life insurance policies.

  • Apollo 11 astronauts
Apollo 11 astronauts
Allstar Picture Library Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Apollo 11 mission was a dangerous endeavor that put the crew’s lives at risk, a fact not lost on astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Aware of the risks ahead, the crew of the historic moon mission signed autographs as a way to provide for their families in case of disaster. At the time, standard life insurance policies were extremely expensive for interstellar missions, and would not have adequately supported the astronauts’ families. So, lacking any traditional protection, the astronauts cleverly realized that there was a market out there for signatures from American heroes such as themselves.

The three men entered quarantine roughly a month ahead of the July 1969 mission to the moon. During their free time, they signed hundreds of autographs known as “covers” — signed envelopes postmarked with important dates, such as the date of the moon landing itself. The covers were delivered to the astronauts’ families, who held onto them in the event that tragedy struck. Thankfully, the Apollo 11 crew returned unharmed, so these “insurance policies” weren’t sold. The crews of Apollo 12 through 16 continued this tradition until 1972, though all of those crafts also returned safely. In the 1990s, covers from the Apollo 11 mission began appearing in memorabilia auctions and commanded incredible value, some selling for tens of thousands of dollars.

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