To celebrate the Apollo 13 mission 45 years ago, a Dallas auction house is selling several rare artifacts including a “Lunar Bible” and a plaque featuring a note of thanks to the module maker from one of the astronauts.
The item expected to garner the most interest at the Heritage Auctions event Friday is an assemblage of Apollo 13 material, including the netting ripped from Apollo 13’s Lunar Module “Aquarius.” The collection, with an estimated value of $20,000, also includes a note from lunar module pilot Fred Haise to the lunar module maker, Grumman’s George M. Skurla, in which Haise thanks Skurla for saving the crew’s life.
“My personal thanks for your leadership of the Grumman KSC Team that launched a better than perfect LM-7. Aquarius,” writes Haise, “serving as a lifeboat on the Apollo 13 aborted lunar mission, saved the crew even though pressed beyond design specs.”
The Apollo 13 moon mission was aborted about 200,000 miles from Earth when an oxygen tank exploded on April 13, 1970, causing another tank to fail and seriously jeopardizing the three-man crew’s ability to return home. After the explosion, astronaut Jack Swigert famously said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
“It truly was America’s greatest, most successful failure,” said Michael Riley, senior historian and cataloger at Heritage Auctions. “Think about that. No lifeguard, no tow truck, no calling for a pick-up. The crew had only their own incredible tenacity, never-say-die attitude and one amazing lunar module to get them back to Earth, hundreds of thousands of miles away. That’s exactly what they did.”
Other items to be auction include an Apollo 13 silver Robbins medallion, which was originally in the collection of Swigert and was intended to go to the lunar surface. It has an estimated value of $7,000. There is also a certificate signed by the crew, which includes an American flag that was aboard the mission. It originally came from the personal collection of Lovell and is also valued at $5,000.
There is also the “Lunar Bible” number 14-9, one of only 12 rare and highly sought-after complete 1,245-page microform Bibles created for these Apollo missions. (It was printed in miniature out of necessity, given the size and weight constraints for flight to the lunar surface.) It reached the lunar surface on Apollo 14 with moonwalker Edgar Mitchell. Its estimated value is $75,000.