A rare chance to own one of the notorious Apollo 15 covers (envelopes) carried to the Moon’s surface.
In the spring of 1971, German stamp dealer Hermann Sieger approached Apollo 15 commander David Scott. Sieger offered Scott and fellow Apollo 15 crewmembers Jim Irwin and Al Worden $7,000 each to carry 100 covers to the Moon. The crew agreed, on condition that Sieger would not sell the covers until the end of the Apollo programme. The crew decided to add a further 300 covers to Sieger’s 100 for their own use.
The Kennedy Space Center post office cancelled the 400 covers on the morning of the launch. The covers were then vacuum-packed and stored in a Beta fire-retardant cloth bag and delivered to Scott at the astronauts’ room at the Launch Complex. Scott stored them in a pocket of his spacesuit. The astronauts would later maintain they believed the covers were declared in the manifest of the mission.
After splashdown in the Pacific and rescue by the USS Okinawa, the envelopes were cancelled the same day (August 7, 1971).
Upon receipt of the 100 covers, Sieger went back on his word and immediately began selling them, for $1,500 each. In mid-1972, the world’s press discovered the story. The furore prompted a government investigation that saw the confiscation of the 298 astronaut covers (two had been damaged pre-flight).
NASA stated: "The Apollo 15 crew exercised poor judgment in their actions. Therefore, astronauts Scott, Worden and Irwin will be reprimanded and their actions given due consideration in their selection for future assignment."
NASA's rules didn't forbid Apollo astronauts from carrying items to the Moon for personal profit. In fact, previous missions had done it and NASA had turned a blind eye. But NASA had been embarrassed by the episode so it made an example of the three astronauts. They never flew again.
In 1983, after learning the US Postal Service planned to fly 260,000 covers on a space shuttle mission, Al Worden successfully sued the government. NASA returned the 298 covers to the three astronauts.
This envelope is one of the 298 confiscated covers.
Apollo 15 (July 26, 1971 – August 7, 1971) was the fourth manned mission to land on the Moon. The mission was notable for the first use of the Lunar Rover, enabling the crew to explore further than previous missions.
Commander Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Irwin spent two days and 18 hours on the Moon, including 18.5 hours outside the Lunar Module.
The crew discovered the Genesis Rock – a 4.5 million-year-old rock, dating to around the time the Moon formed. It was the oldest rock found on the Moon at that point.
During the return to Earth, Command Module Pilot Al Worden performed the first deep space spacewalk.
Irwin suffered a “minor” heart attack during the return to Earth.
Despite the significant scientific achievements of the mission, it is today best known for the stamp scandal that broke following splash down.
The envelope measures 6.5 x 3.5 inches. It bears a cachet of the Apollo 15 emblem.
It includes three stamps. A single 10c “First man on the Moon” stamp is cancelled by a postmark from the Kennedy Space Center, dated the morning of launch - July 26, 1971.
A pair of 8c “A decade of achievement / United States in Space” stamps is cancelled by a postmark from the USS Okinawa and dated the morning of August 7, 1971 – the date of splashdown and recovery of the crew from the Pacific.
The cover is signed attractively and clearly in black fountain pen by the three astronauts: Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden.
The upper left corner reads: "This envelope was carried to the moon aboard the Apollo 15. #26 of 400 to the lunar surface in L.M. Falcon."
The reverse features the handwritten initials “SNH” of NASA’s general counsel S Neil Hosenball and serial # 075. These relate to NASA’s confiscation of the covers in 1971.
Included is an affidavit signed on July 19, 1983 by Scott, Irwin and Worden, confirming the cover is genuine.
Also included is an October 10, 2011 letter of authenticity from Jim Irwin’s wife, Mary Ellen, certifying the Jim Irwin estate owned the envelope from July 19, 1983 onwards.
A hugely rare, hugely desirable and hugely storied piece of space memorabilia.