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Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Safety Line

 

In the hierarchy of space collectibles, the most desirable artifacts are probably those that were actually carried onto the lunar surface during one of the six Apollo lunar landing missions. The Lunar Surface Safety Line presentation cards produced by NASA after the Apollo 14 mission fall into this category, and the background to these unique momentos is described below.


The Lunar Surface Safety Line was a one hundred foot long cord designed to be used in an emergency to allow one astronaut to pull another to safety - for example if they were unable to climb back up a steep or slippery slope of a crater.

The Apollo 14 safety line was stowed at launch inside the MESA (Modularized Equipment Sotrage Assembly) on the side of the Lunar Module, as noted in the Stowage List.

ITEM NUMBER PART NUMBER NOMENCLATURE STOWAGE LOCATION UNIT WEIGHT QTY/ SC
B 1041. SEB33100290-302 SAFETY LINE,LUNAR
SURFACE (100FT)
IN ITEM B1047 (MESA) 1.3 1

Apollo 14 Stowage List - Safety Line Entry - LM Stowage at Launch

At the start of the first EVA on the lunar surface, the safety line was transferred to the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET) - a two wheeled cart designed to be pulled along the lunar surface by the astronauts - where it remained throughout both EVAs.

The Apollo 14 MET on which the safety
line was stowed throughout both EVAs

An Apollo 14 safety line presentation card

Since no problems occurred during the EVAs it was never necessary to actually use the safety line, and at the end of the second EVA it was one of many pieces of equipment destined to be offloaded (basically dumped on the lunar surface) before the liftoff of the Lunar Module Ascent Module.

However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the line was not jettissoned as planned and was instead transferred to the LM Ascent Stage and returned to Earth.

After the mission, it was decided to use the surface-carried safety line in order to produce momentos of the flight to thank staff at the KSC for their efforts on the Apollo program. The line was cut into one inch lengths which were laminated onto 3¾" x 2½" presentation cards bearing the name of the person they were being awarded to. The cards were distributed with a thank you letter from the crew.

FLOWN availability - Given the length of the fragments (approx 1") and the length of the lunar safety line (100') it may be that up to 1,200 of these presentation cards were produced by NASA. Despite this large number, very few examples actually appear for sale. This, combined with the fact that they are probably the only lunar surface EVA-carried artifacts available for less than five figures, means that they sell very well, fetching anywhere between $350 to $1016 at auction in recent years, with one exceptional case selling for $1969 in the January 2011 RRAuction Space sale.

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