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Neil Armstrong’s Life Insurance Policy

Buying a life insurance for a person who is about to get in a rocket would be very expensive. So what should a responsible astronaut have done at that point of time? No one would provide life insurance for an astronaut at anything short of an astronomical price

September 06, 2012 2:22 IST | India Infoline News Service
Next week, on 13th September, a memorial service to honour astronaut Neil Armstrong will be held at the Washington National Cathedral located in Washington, DC. People around the world have been remembering the former American astronaut Neil Armstrong. He died on 25 August 2012, at the age of 82 in his home state of Ohio, from complications of a cardiovascular procedure. All of us know that Neil Armstrong was the ‘first’ man to walk on the moon.

But before he walked on the moon, he had to solve a much more ordinary problem.

“You’re about to embark on a mission that’s more dangerous than anything any human has ever done before,” Robert Pearlman, a space historian and collector with collectspace.com told NPR. “And you have a family that you're leaving behind on Earth, and there's a real chance you will not be returning.”

Exactly the kind of situation a responsible person plans for buying a life insurance policy. Buying a life insurance for a person who is about to get in a rocket would be very expensive. So what should a responsible astronaut have done at that point of time? No one would provide life insurance for an astronaut at anything short of an astronomical price.

But Neil Armstrong had something in his mind. He was famous, as was the whole Apollo 11 crew. People really wanted their autographs.

“These astronauts had been signing autographs since the day they were announced as astronauts, and they knew even though eBay didn’t exist back then, that there was a market for such things,” Pearlman said. “There was demand.”

During their pre-launch quarantine, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins signed hundreds of envelopes and gave them to a friend. And on important days—the day of the launch, the day the astronauts landed on the moon—their friend got them to the post office and got them postmarked, and then distributed them to the astronauts’ families. Such envelopes are known as “covers.”  It was life insurance in the form of autographs. “If they did not return from the moon, their families could sell them—to not just fund their daily expenses, but also fund their children’s higher education and other life needs,” Pearlman said.

The life insurance autographs were not needed. Armstrong and the whole Apollo 11 crew walked on the moon and came home safely. They signed almost tens of thousands autographs for free.

Use of covers as insurance seems to have been practiced throughout the Apollo missions. The cost of an Apollo 11 insurance autograph today—showing up in space memorabilia auctions—can run up to $30,000.

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