Frank Borman to Mission Control: "We had one little incident here. Jim Lovell inadvertently popped one life raft so we've got one full Mae West with us here."Apollo 8 Flown Life Preserver Vest on Plaque Presented by the Backup Crew to Mission Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Directly from His Personal Collection, Signed and Certified, with Signed LOA. A 6" x 4" x 2" Beta cloth life vest pack with attached pull cord mounted on an 8" x 10" x 0.75" wooden plaque. An engraved plate attached reads: "A Wing in Flight,/ Is worth two/ on the water./ To James A. Lovell/ Navigator Extraordinaire/ From the backup crew". And what a backup crew this was: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Fred Haise. There is a great story behind this award that is told in the accompanying LOA which is transcribed below and also in Lovell's book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 (Houghton Mifflin, 1994) on pages 42 and 43. These life vests had long been known by aviators as a "Mae West." WWII aviators coined the term originally because pilots who wore the inflated life jacket tended to have quite an hourglass-like shape, not unlike the curvaceous Miss West. The life preserver is signed lightly in black ink: "James Lovell/ On Board Apollo 8" and the wooden plaque is signed in black felt tip: "James Lovell/ Apollo 8". What a unique item with a great back story from man's first trip to the moon. Light wear on the vest, which has come loose from one of the two mounting screws (easily repaired), plaque excellent.
Included with this lot is a signed Letter of Certification from Lovell on his company letterhead stating, in full: "Apollo crews wore two small inflatable life preservers for the launch and landing phase. They were attached on straps and worn over their flight suits. On Apollo Eight I was the first to get out of my couch in orbit and move around. In doing so I inadvertently snagged the life vest toggle of one of the life vests. It blew up and suddenly we had a blown up vest full of CO2 to get rid of. Not a good addition to the O2 atmosphere we were breathing. We vented the CO2 through the urine dump system. Apollo 8 back-up crew took the unused vest and mounted it on a plaque to give to me at the splashdown party. I hereby certify that this life preserver was flown on board Apollo 8. Apollo 8 was the first journey to the moon in December, 1968."
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