Apollo Flown Covers
Postal covers (essentially envelopes with printed decorative cachets) were probably at the height of their popularity in the 1960s and early 1970s so it should be no surprise that some of the most valued mementos of the space program were the covers carried to the moon by the Apollo astronauts.
Such was the appeal of these space flown covers that they became the heart of a scandal which permanently changed the rules regarding the carrying of mementos by astronauts and which effectively ended the NASA careers of those involved.
Note that the story of the Apollo 11 flown covers and the 'infamous' Apollo 15 flown covers are detailed by Howard C. Weinberger on their own dedicated pages which follow this one. Below I start by describing the flown covers from the other Apollo lunar missions.
Apollo 12 Flown Covers
One of the Apollo 12 covers flown on Apollo 15
Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot Richard 'Dick' Gordon prepared a set of 87 envelopes with the intention of carrying them with him on the mission but in the end they were left behind.
These covers were later carried by Jim Irwin on the Apollo 15 mission, allowing them to be noted as flown, albeit on a different mission.
The flown covers bear a color Apollo 12 mission emblem cachet with the names of the spacecraft below. The six cent stamp is tied by a "Houston Tex. Dec. 10, 1969" machine cancel which was added after the end of the Apollo 12 quarantine.
Each flown cover is hand signed by the Apollo 12 crew of Charles Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Alan Bean.
Each cover is inscribed "FLOWN TO THE MOON" and initialed by Gordon at upper left, with the number of the cover "XX of 87" added by hand at lower left. In addition, the reverse is inscribed "This envelope was flown to the moon on Apollo 15 Richard F. Gordon."
Apollo 13 Flown Covers
One of the covers flown on Apollo 13
Commander James Lovell carried 50 commemorative covers on the Apollo 13 mission. These covers were prepared by M.I. Radnofsky, then carried by Lovell in his personal preference kit (PPK) during the mission itself.
After landing at Ellington AFB, Lovell gave the covers to Radnofsky, who took them to the base post office for handstamp cancels before returning them to Lovell.
The flown covers bear a color NASA MSC Stamp Club cachet featuring the Apollo 13 mission emblem, with an Apollo 8 stamp tied by an "Ellington Air Force Base, TX 77030 Apr. 19 P.M. 1970" datestamp. A second strike of the datestamp is found on the reverse.
Each cover was hand signed before the mission by the original crew of James Lovell, Fred Haise and Ken Mattingly. Shortly before the flight Mattingly was replaced by Jack Swigert but his signature was not added to the covers either before or after the mission.
The numbering of each cover is indicated by hand in a printed or stamped box at lower left "No. XX of 50 FLOWN AROUND THE MOON IN "ODYSSEY - APOLLO 13". The covers are also inscribed by hand on the reverse "Flown aboard Apollo 13 in my ppk, James Lovell."
Apollo 14 Flown Covers
A facsimile copy of one of the Apollo 14 flown covers
Apollo 14 Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell carried 55 covers on the mission. These were carried in his Lunar Module personal preference kit (PPK) which means they were carried to the lunar surface rather than staying in lunar orbit.
The flown covers bear a color mission emblem cachet with a First Man on the Moon ten cent stamp affixed.
The Houston, Texas cancellation is dated February 26, 1971, marking the end of their period in post-flight quarantine, and the covers also bear a red "Delayed in Quarantine" hand stamp.
The covers are signed by Mitchell and the numbering is indicated by an inked stamp with the unique number of the cover added by hand.
It's important to note that a number of facsimile copies of the flown cover number 52 are in circulation. These can be differentiated from the real thing by a small printed "A. Bolaffi" (apparently the owner of the genuine cover) following the "APOLLO 14" text at lower right.
Apollo 16 Flown Covers
One of the covers flown by Charlie Duke on Apollo 16
Apollo 16 Lunar Module Pilot Charlie Duke carried 25 covers on the mission. These were carried in his Lunar Module personal preference kit (PPK) which means they were carried to the lunar surface rather than staying in lunar orbit.
The flown covers have a mission emblem color cachet and each is affixed with a pair of Decade of Achivement eight-cent postage stamps.
The covers have two cancellations, one from the Kennedy Space Center on launch day April 16, 1972, the other from the day of recovery, April 27, 1972 on the recovery ship U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CVS-14).
Each of the 25 covers was hand numbered at upper left by Duke and signed on the front. Duke also added a hand written certification on the envelope flap which includes the number of the cover.
The fallout from the Apollo 15 Sieger cover scandal led to much more restrictive rules governing the items carried by astronauts being introduced by the time of the Apollo 17 mission. This meant that no covers were flown on that mission, making the twenty five Apollo 16 covers the last to be carried to the moon.
Annex A: Apollo 12 Flown (on Apollo 15) covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
Annex B: Apollo 13 Flown covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
Annex C: Apollo 14 Flown covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
Annex D: Apollo 16 Flown covers sold at auction or identified in private or museum collections
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