Signed by the crew and flown to the moon on Apollo 11.Apollo 11 Flown Crew-Signed Commemorative Cover Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Certified, with Handwritten LOA. A color-cacheted "NASA Manned Spacecraft Center Stamp Club Official Commemorative Cover of the First Manned Lunar Exploration" signed "Neil Armstrong", "Michael Collins", and "Buzz Aldrin" to the right of the cachet. Collins has signed above it: "Carried to the moon aboard Apollo 11" and numbered it "C56" in the image of earth in the cachet. This cover flew to the moon on one of mankind's greatest adventures, the first manned lunar landing mission. Affixed to the cover is an 8¢ "Apollo 8" stamp (Scott #1371) with an August 11, 1969, cancellation at Webster, Texas. Stamped beneath the cancellation is the text: "Delayed In Quarantine At/ Lunar Receiving Laboratory/ M.S.C. - Houston, Texas". Apollo 11 splashed down on earth on July 24 at which point, the equipment, and astronauts from the spacecraft were quarantined. As soon as this cover was released, it was taken to the nearest post office for cancellation. This is the pinnacle, the ultimate, for any collection of space-related covers. Excellent condition with one minor crinkle in the black area of the cachet, away from the signatures.
Included with this lot is a handwritten and signed Letter of Authenticity on Collins' letterhead stating, in full: "I hereby certify that the accompanying Apollo XI Official Commemorative Cover, numbered C-56 within the earth image, further identified with the August 11, 1969 Webster, TX postmark, the Lunar Receiving Laboratory quarantine stamp and original signatures of the crew, is one of my 63 covers that flew to the moon with me aboard the mission July 16-24, 1969. Michael Collins/ CMP/ Apollo XI/ Aug 25, 2011".
Space historian Howard Weinberger has done extensive research on these Apollo 11 flown covers. He has confirmed that there were a total of 214 covers flown. Of the three different cachet designs known, the majority were of this NASA Manned Spacecraft Center variety. The 214 flown covers were shared among the crew in the following breakdown: Armstrong- 47; Collins- 63; and Aldrin- 104. Each of the astronauts devised their own serial numbering key for their covers. Aldrin noted each cover in the top left corner with his initials and a number. Collins noted his covers within the image of the earth on the front with his last name initial and a number such as the "C56" found on this one in that position. Aldrin and Collins hand wrote above the cachet on each of their covers "Carried to the Moon aboard Apollo 11". It is not known if and how Armstrong notated his. Armstrong had recently confirmed that he was still in possession of his forty-seven covers and that they were noted similarly to the Aldrin and Collins covers. Weinberger, analyzing their collectability, states: "... the flown covers really do exemplify the ideal rarity because they incorporate all of the desired elements: the commemorative aspect, the flown status, the quarantine time, the crew signatures and the scarcity of only 214 having existed." A great opportunity for the astute collector.
The Apollo 11 astronauts placement in quarantine was in accordance with the federal Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law, passed in 1969, to "guard against the remote possibility that they are harboring unknown organisms that might endanger life on earth" (TIME Magazine, July 25, 1969). Upon landing on the U.S.S. Hornet, they are placed in a Mobile Quarantine Facility that would be their home until they got back to Houston. Michael Collins talks about the quarantine period in his excellent book, Carrying the Fire: "The mobile quarantine facility is simply a glorified trailer without wheels, modified with filters, water tanks, etc., to provide a biological barrier between those inside and the 3 billion people outside... We are summoned to the end of the trailer, and parting the curtains, we see that the hangar deck has been arranged for some sort of ceremony... in marched none other than President Nixon... We have transferred from a miniature planet, Columbia, to a slightly larger compartment, which in intentionally isolated from earth. We have not quite returned yet, despite the President's being outside our window... We are steaming for Pearl Harbor, where we will be transferred via a flatbed truck to a jet cargo airplane, flown to Houston, and put into the lunar receiving laboratory... [T]here is a flood of telegrams, newspapers, and letters from all over the world... Most impressive of all is a letter from Charles Lindbergh... With mail like this, and healthy mice, the days race by. Suddenly it is Sunday, August 10- and we are free to go. Our cocoon has burst, for better or worse, and we are officially certified as being fit to rejoin humanity- physically, at least. Carrying a file of telegrams and the Lindbergh letter as my graduation present, I emerge blinking into the Houston night, flashbulbs popping, and get my first smell of the earth in nearly a month..." (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, pages 443-452).
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