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Monday, September 3, 2012

Neil Armstrong was not able to buy Life Insurance - Apollo 11

Everyone values life and would like to ensure that their family maintains the same standard of life after their death.  That is one primary reason why people buy Life Insurance.   Through the Policy contract, the Life Insurer promises to pay the Sum assured (the benefit) to the nominee, upon the death of the insured person, for which the policy holder has to pay premium.  The main  advantage for the policy owner is "peace of mind", in knowing that the death of the insured person will not result in financial hardship for loved ones.

The World values the First. ----- Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. (born 1930) the  American astronaut has the honour of earliest living moon walker and the oldest amongst the other moon walkers  – he was the  lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history. On July 20, 1969, he was the second human being to set foot on the Moon, following mission commander Neil Armstrong, who is no more now. 

Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, and university professor.  A participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest, Armstrong joined theNASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. His first spaceflight was the NASA Gemini 8 mission in 1966, for which he was the command pilot, becoming one of the first U.S. civilians in space.  Armstrong's second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2½ hours exploring.  Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, and the Congressional Gold Medal with his former crewmates in 2009.  Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82 due to complications from blocked coronary arteries.

The Apollo program was the third human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA), the United States' civilian space agency. Conceived during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower as a follow-on to Project Mercury, which put the first Americans in space, and Project Gemini, which developed the space travel techniques needed, Apollo succeeded in landing the first humans on Earth's Moon in 1969 through 1972. Apollo ran from 1961 to 1972, and was supported by the two-man Gemini program which ran concurrently with it from 1962 to 1966. Apollo succeeded despite the major setback of a 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed the entire crew during a pre-launch test.

Neil Armstrong was after all a man and naturally prior to embarking on Apollo programme wanted a life insurance cover – now comes the report that Neil Armstrong Couldn't Afford Life Insurance, So he had to use a creative way to provide for his family, if he died in the mission.  It's incredible to think that astronauts once needed to improvise in such a way,  but the crew had a tough time in arranging life cover as their job was inherently filled with risk, and as such - particularly in the early days of the Apollo program - an astronaut's mission into space was literally uninsurable. Of course this situation didn't sit well with the astronauts, many of whom had families and other dependants to support should their space flight unfortunately end in death.

He was to embark on a mission that was more dangerous than anything any human had ever done before and his family back at Earth had to protected as there was a real chance of the crew not returning back.  Exactly the kind of situation a responsible person plans for by taking out a life insurance policy. Not surprisingly, a life insurance policy for somebody about to get on a rocket to the moon cost a fortune.  Neil Armstrong had something going for him. 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,"  "There was demand."  It was - covers -– envelopes signed by astronauts and postmarked on important dates.

About a month before Apollo 11 was set to launch, the three astronauts entered quarantine. And, during free moments in the following weeks, each of the astronauts signed hundreds of covers. They 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. It was life insurance in the form of autographs.  The idea was that if at all the crew were not to return, the families could sell them and make some revenue out of them. 

Eventually, the Mission proved to be a success – Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon and returned safely.  They signed probably tens of thousands more autographs for free.  In the 1990s,  the insurance autographs started showing up in space memorabilia auctions. An Apollo 11 insurance autograph can cost as much as $30,000. 

So those covers with signature of the astronauts and specially postmarked July 16, 1969 — the day of the mission's success — or its failure, would have earned their family handsome revenue acting as insurance, if the mission had failed.  Fortunately, the trip went off without a hitch and all three men went on to live long, healthy lives and all remained alive until Neil Armstrong's death a few days ago. The covers are still around, and not too hard to find. In 2011, Collectors Weekly pegged their average value at around $5,000.
The cover postmarked 20.7.1969 and signed by 3 astronauts

While Armstrong and Aldrin basked in glory – there was one not so fortunate member to whom, it was so near and yet so far… Michael Collins  was the other American astronaut who was on Apollo 11. His first spaceflight was Gemini 10; in his second spaceflight he orbited the Moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first manned landing on the lunar surface. He is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Sources acknowledged [ & – the latter being the source of the photo appearing in the article too]

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