Space News space history and artifacts articles Messages space history discussion forums Sightings worldwide astronaut appearances Resources selected space history documents

                  arrow advertisements

This document, reprinted here for reference only, appears as originally issued by NASA in September 1972.

Articles Carried on Manned Space Flights

NASA News Release 72-189

3:00 PM, September 15, 1972

NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher today (Sept. 15) released a report on Apollo 15, addressing the essential facts developed through investigation to date concerning postal covers, the Fallen Astronaut sculpture, and unauthorized timepieces.

The summary further outlines the specific disciplinary actions taken in the matter of unauthorized activities by the crew of Apollo 15. At the request of the Justice Department, which is reviewing the Apollo 15 incident, NASA will make no further statements on the matter at this time.

The investigations and reviews pursuant to the Apollo 15 incidents have revealed a number of weaknesses in NASA's administrative procedures, management communication information channels, and internal operating relationships. Actions are under way to remedy these weaknesses.

In one such action, the NASA Administrator has issued a new instruction revising policy and procedures concerning articles that can be carried on manned flight missions. Under the new instruction, no more than 12 personal items weighing no more than one-half pound will be carried on a mission by each flight astronaut. All personal items will be approved by the Administrator. Items that could be commercially exploited by recipients are prohibited. The list of items carried by each astronaut will be made public no later than thirty days after completion of each flight.

In addition to personal items, future manned flights will carry an official flight kit containing selected multiple items (flags, patches, medallions) as are appropriate for official presentation by the U.S. Government. The contents of the official flight kit will be approved by the Administrator and will be announced prior to flight. As in the case of personal items, commercialization of official flight kit items is prohibited.

Summary of Apollo 15 Commercialization Incidents
September 1972

The Apollo 15 lunar exploration mission was launched on July 26, 1971, and returned to Earth on Aug. 7, 1971, after successful accomplishment of the scientific and technical objectives. The first lunar roving vehicle was operated on the moon to extend the range of exploration, some 81 kilograms (180 pounds) of lunar surface samples were returned for analysis, and a battery of very productive lunar surface and orbital experiments were conducted.

The crew of Apollo 15 were Col. David R. Scott, mission commander, and Lt. Col. Alfred M. Worden and Col. James B. Irwin.

Since the mission, a number of questions have been raised concerning the propriety of the crew's conduct, especially in relation to the disposition of personal souvenirs and mementos. Careful investigation has established the main facts and has led to a determination by NASA that there were cases of violation of regulations, irregularities, and poor exercise of judgment by the crew; that some of the management communication lines within NASA were weak; and that certain administrative procedures were deficient.

Postal Covers

One issue has been that of postal covers carried on the mission by the crew. NASA has authorized astronauts to carry certain personal items on manned flights, known as "Astronaut Preference Kits" (APKs). All such items must be listed and approved prior to launch, are intended for private use or as personal gifts after the flight, and may not be employed for commercial purposes or personal gain. Astronaut kits typically have included badges, jewelry, coins, medals, flags, stamps, postal covers, charms, currency, printed materials, pennants, and similar easily packed, lightweight, and non-hazardous mementos. On Apollo 15, there were a total of 641 postal covers carried by the crew, of which 243 were listed and authorized before the flight and 398 were not.

Authorized Covers

The 243 listed and authorized covers include:

  • 2 U.S. Postal Service covers, one of which was publicly canceled on the moon by Scott at the request of the U.S. Postal Service; the second cover, a backup, was not taken to the lunar surface. Both covers have been returned to the Postal Service (in Washington, D. C.)

  • 1 Wright Brothers commemorative cover, dated 1928 and autographed by Orville Wright, which was carried by Worden for a friend and is currently in that friend's possession.

  • 1 cover labeled "flown to the Moon" bearing a First Man on the Moon stamp and a Bliss Centennial three-cent stamp, which was carried by Irwin for a personal friend of Richard Gordon, former astronaut, and is currently in that friend's possession.

  • 8 covers imprinted with a Shamrock and bearing notation, "This envelope flew to the moon on Apollo 15 - Jim Irwin," which were carried by Irwin. Two have been given to and are retained by NASA employees and six remain in Irwin's possession.

  • 87 Apollo 12 covers (initially thought to be 88) that did not fly on that mission and which were carried on Apollo 15 by Irwin for Mrs. (Barbara) Gordon. These are in the possession of Mrs. Gordon, a stamp collector.

  • 144 Apollo 15 covers which were carried by Worden. 100 of these were especially printed with a cachet showing 15 phases of the moon and marked with the launch and recovery dates by F. Herrick, a philatelist and friend of Worden's, with the aid of Herrick's son. Herrick had advised the Apollo 15 crew to carry first-day covers and to then store them safely for some years, during which they would become valuable collector's items. On the USS Okinawa, the Apollo 15 recovery ship, the astronauts placed two eight-cent stamps purchased on board by Worden on each of these covers and they had the covers canceled by the shipboard post office. The astronauts later autographed these covers while flying back from Hawaii to Houston. Sixteen covers were torn or damaged and were destroyed. Worden gave away 28 of these covers to friends. He then gave 40 to Herrick (28 for himself and 12 for Herrick's son) and entrusted the remaining 60 to Herrick for safekeeping. Herrick has stated that he personally sold three of his covers, has sent several to Europe for eventual sale, and has sold ten more through a dealer on commission; Herrick has realized some $7,175 thus far. To date, no information has been developed indicating that there were agreements or arrangements between Herrick and Worden whereby Worden was to have received anything of value from any sale of the covers by Herrick. Worden later requested Herrick to return the 60 covers entrusted to him; the returned covers have been impounded by NASA.

Unauthorized Covers

The 398 unauthorized covers (initially thought to number 400) are lightweight envelopes carrying as a cachet a replica of the official Apollo 15 patch overprinted with an Air Force wing and propeller emblem. They were part of a large order of cacheted covers paid for by a privately employed public relations man with a wide circle of friends among the NASA astronauts.

These 398 were properly packaged for flight and carried on board Apollo 15 by Scott in a pocket of his space suit; each carried a ten-cent "First Man on the Moon" stamp and had been canceled at the Kennedy Space Center Post Office early on July 26, 1971, the morning of the flight. These covers were not listed as being in Scott's preference kit; had they been so listed, they would probably have been routinely approved for inclusion in a preference kit as had the 243 authorized covers noted above.

On the USS Okinawa, the Apollo 15 recovery ship, the astronauts purchased twin eight-cent stamps and affixed them to these covers. The covers were then canceled and date-stamped (Aug. 7, 1972) in the shipboard post office. The astronauts later autographed these covers while flying from Hawaii to Houston. On Aug. 31, 1971, 100 of these covers, already carrying the handwritten notation, "Landed at Hadley moon July 30, 1971. Dave Scott, Jim Irwin", had the additional legend - "This is to certify that this cover was onboard the Falcon at the Hadley Apennine, Moon, July 30-August 2, 1971" typed on their backs and signed by a notary public. It was these covers that later came on to the commercial philately market in Europe.

Investigation has established that Herman E. Sieger of Lorch, Germany, a major European stamp dealer, became acquainted with H. Walter Eiermann while on a visit to Cape Kennedy in 1970.

Eiermann, a naturalized American citizen, had been privately employed for many years in the Cape Kennedy area and was well-acquainted with many in the astronaut corps.

In early 1971, Sieger concluded that special stamped envelopes carried on a lunar mission would have significant commercial value; be there upon approached Eiermann as to the possibility of acquiring such covers.

In the spring of 1971, during the Apollo 15 crew training period at Cape Kennedy, Eiermann proposed to Scott, and later to Worden and Irwin, that the astronauts carry 100 special covers to the moon for him. It is the contention of the astronauts that there was to be no commercialization or advertising of these covers and that nothing would be done with them until after completion of the Apollo program. In return, Eiermann offered a monetary consideration, approximately $7,000 apiece, in the form of savings accounts. The astronauts agreed and also decided among themselves to carry 300 more such covers for their personal use. As noted earlier, it is believed that the actual number of these taken on Apollo 15 is 298.

On Sept. 2, 1971, Scott mailed the 100 specially certified covers to Eiermann, who at that time was in Stuttgart, Germany. Eiermann delivered these covers to Sieger. Sieger paid Eiermann an unspecified sum for the covers and then advertised them for sale. By November 1971, 99 had been sold at an average price of $1,500 each. When the public sale in Germany came to the attention of the astronauts, Scott telephoned Eiermann to request that sales be stopped and the covers returned.

In the meantime, Eiermann opened a $7,000 savings account in a German bank for each of the astronauts with their consent. In February 1972, the astronauts decided not to accept these monies and Scott took steps to assure that the funds were returned to Eiermann. Eiermann suggested, as an alternative to the savings accounts, that each astronaut receive a commemorative stamp album for their families. This suggestion, initially accepted by the astronauts, was rejected in April 1972 after further consideration.

The remaining 298 covers have been impounded by NASA.

Unauthorized Timepieces

Another irregularity that has come to light in the investigation of Apollo 15 was that Scott had on board two timepieces (a wristwatch and stop watch) that were not part of the normal mission equipment. During the preflight training period, Scott had agreed to evaluate these timepieces for the manufacturer at the request of a friend. Thinking they might be useful, particularly for the possible emergency timing of a manually controlled propulsion maneuver, Scott carried them on the mission but without prior authorization. NASA has deliberately withheld the name of the manufacturer of the timepieces to avoid commercialization of this unauthorized action.

'Fallen Astronaut' Sculpture

The Apollo 15 crew desired to make a personal, private, symbolic gesture commemorating all deceased astronauts and cosmonauts; this desire was reinforced by the death the month before of three Soviet cosmonauts during the Soyuz 11 flight. Scott had met Paul Van Hoeydonck, a Belgian sculptor specializing in space themes, at a dinner party and had discussed the possibility of such a memorial. From that discussion came the Apollo 15 crew's decision to place on the moon a small sculptured aluminum figure provided by Van Hoeydonck, together with a plaque listing the names of the deceased, as the memorial. The crew's clear understanding with Van Hoeydonck was that there was to be no commercial or personal exploitation of this memorial.

In a post-mission press conference, the crew reported the memorial ceremony and, in keeping with their understanding, did not reveal the sculptor's name.

In November 1971 the Smithsonian Institution indicated a desire to display a replica of the memorial statue and plaque; the Apollo 15 crew agreed under the conditions that the display be in good taste and without publicity. Scott undertook to get the replicas for the museum.

In March 1972, Scott forwarded replicas of the plaque to the museum. In April, responding to Scott's request, Van Hoeydonck presented the museum with a replica of the statuette. The replicas are currently on display there.

In May 1972, Scott learned that further replicas of the statuette might be offered for sale. He wrote Van Hoeydonck asking him to check on this rumor. In his response, Van Hoeydonck confirmed that replicas were intended for sale and indicated that he felt no constraints or restrictions in this matter. The Apollo 15 crew strongly disagree with this position, feeling that their solemn understanding with Van Hoeydonck prohibits any such commercialization.

The 950 replicas of the "Fallen Astronaut" figurine signed by the sculptor have been advertised for sale by the Waddell Gallery of New York at a price of $750 apiece.

Specific Actions

In recognition of the apparent intent of the Apollo 15 crew to gain personally from the exercise of their astronaut privileges in the matter of the unauthorized postal covers, but considering as well their ultimate rejection of such personal gain, Scott, Worden, and Irwin have been formally reprimanded. Their official Efficiency Reports as military officers reflect a formal finding of lack of judgment. These two actions result in severe career penalties, whether the astronauts remain in Federal service or not. In addition, the Department of Justice is investigating whether any criminal statutes have been violated and also whether any civil action on behalf of the Government is warranted. The Department of Justice has requested that NASA issue no further statements on this matter until the Department has completed its review.

back to collectSPACE
© 1999-2024 collectSPACE. All rights reserved.