Friday, August 10, 2012

Apollo 15's Contraband Stamp Debacle

"Little things can sometimes have big and damaging effects on a mission. In the case of Apollo 15, the 'little things with big consequences' were... postage stamps. It might be one of the stranger Apollo-era stories but the Apollo 15 crew put their careers in jeopardy over 298 postage stamps," Amy Shira Teitel writes on the Discovery News website.

According to Teitel, Apollo 15 took 250 envelopes with special issue space stamps to the moon. Commander Dave Scott had a cancellation device on hand and cancelled each stamp at Hadley Rille, the missions lunar landing point.

She goes on to say, "But memorabilia dealer Walter Eiermann saw the potential of selling these covers for profit and got the crew to take 300 more than the 250 they were authorized to carry. The idea was that Eiermann and each crewman -- Scott was accompanied by command module pilot Al Worden and lunar module pilot Jim Irwin -- would have 100 to sell after the mission. He also have the crew $7,000 for their troubles.

"Everything would have been fine had Eiermann not gotten over-zealous when he finally got his flown covers back after the crew returned on Aug. 7, 1971. He started selling them for $1,500 USD a piece in Europe, and it wasn't long before US authorities got wind of what was happening. The crew tried unsuccessfully to recover the covers but NASA got there first; the agency also confiscated 298 of the 300 the crew had taken for themselves (two were destroyed before the flight)."

Teitel writes, "In an attempt to save their careers, the astronauts returned the $7,000, but pressure from a congressional inquiry forced NASA to suspend the three men from flight status. They were also forced to sign an agreement saying they would never take memorabilia into space for personal profit again."

Shown above, one of the covers that were flown to the Lunar Surface on Apollo 15.

According to the website, "Once back from the moon and while on the USS Okinawa the crew added the twin 8c stamps and had the covers cancelled and date stamped at the on-board ship's post office, they then signed the covers on the flight from Hawaii back to Houston."

To learn more, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM