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Author Topic:   STS-8 crew autographed Challenger flown covers
Mike_The_First
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Posts: 153
From: Joliet, IL
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posted 11-23-2014 08:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike_The_First   Click Here to Email Mike_The_First     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are several of the Challenger flown STS-8 covers on eBay, but not a single one signed that I see.

Is it just a matter of signed ones not being on the market right now or will the crew members not actually sign them?

Apollo-Soyuz
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posted 11-23-2014 08:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo-Soyuz   Click Here to Email Apollo-Soyuz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a scan of four covers I own. I sent them to STS-8 crewmember Bill Thorton to complete them. Due to the demand for his autograph, he is taking longer to return requests.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-23-2014 08:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From what I understand in talking with several of the astronauts, when the STS-8 crew first returned from space, they agreed with NASA officials to not sign any of the covers for the public.

The astronauts had signed a very small number as part of the official activities for the flight (if I recall correctly, it was 10, but could be mistaken), but — and here's where the stories somewhat diverge — NASA didn't want to have to deal with what could amount to a large number of requests and/or they didn't want the astronauts further connected to the commercial sale of the covers.

Over time, all but one of the astronauts on the crew began signing the covers. William Thornton, as late as 10 years ago, said he could not sign the covers until NASA provided him in writing permission to sign them, citing the original agreement with the space agency.

After speaking with Thornton in 2003, I worked for a bit trying to get someone at NASA Headquarters to issue just such a letter, but was not successful. I don't know if he has since agreed to sign the covers.

4allmankind
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posted 11-23-2014 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 4allmankind   Click Here to Email 4allmankind     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I own a cover signed by all but Thornton.

Thanks on behalf of all collectors, Robert, for trying to get that done!

Noble of Dr. Thornton to keep his original promise though. I respect that and enjoy my cover enough as is, knowing that he's currently not willing to add his name to it.

Bob M
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posted 11-25-2014 08:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
STS-8 USPS flown covers signed by four are not uncommon, but those signed by all five are never seen.

But I have a different opinion as to why Dr. Thornton has always refused to sign the flown covers and it's not because NASA has never changed their original policy on them.

Perhaps Dr. Thornton has had a number of his STS-8 covers signed by the four other STS-8 crew members - say, a couple of dozen or more - and then signed them himself.

Then these very rare complete crew signed flown covers would be quite valuable to his family after his passing. He's controlled the market by not signing and completing any STS-8 flown covers, except those he may have completed himself.

Of course, nothing really wrong with this and it's a very wise way for him to create some very unusual "life insurance" for his descendents.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-25-2014 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My impression after talking with Thornton was that his was earnest in his desire to stay true to NASA's original request.

His character is such that I just don't see him making up a story, nor would he would need to if his desire was to only sign covers for his family. He could simply refuse to sign them, no additional reason needed.

Bob M
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posted 11-25-2014 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm sure that Dr. Thornton is of great character and integrity like all the astronauts, but his reason for not signing the flown covers is an easy and believable way for not signing them.

My theory for him not signing is only a theory, but certainly could be true - or not - and would be a crafty way for him to leave behind a valuable and desirable stash for his descendents.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-25-2014 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We are not really talking about a lot of money here. Even signed by the whole crew, I can't imagine the STS-8 covers being worth more than maybe a few hundred dollars each (at the very most maybe $1,000).

It also somewhat assumes that Thornton refused to sign covers for his STS-8 crewmates while requesting that they sign for him. Otherwise, they all have stashes of signed covers.

Bob M
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posted 11-25-2014 09:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agreed, not a lot of money by today's standards, and I wouldn't place much more than a value of around $500 on such flown complete crew signed covers. But, say, he had 25 done, that would be a nice $12,500 for his family - and maybe substantially more if they sold for more like $750 each.

And I can see the other four crew members going along with his plan and not caring to do such themselves. All four have long been very agreeable and cooperative signers and would be even more so for a fellow crew member.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-25-2014 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, barring more information, I think the assumption has to be that such a stash does not exist.

Some astronauts have more steadfastly held to NASA's policies, even after retirement, than others. Thornton is certainly not the only astronaut to cite NASA's own policies when deciding when, where and what to sign.

Bob M
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posted 11-25-2014 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agreed. But him citing NASA's long-out-of-date restrictive policy on the STS-8 flown covers is a very convenient reason to refrain from signing any - any from the public.

Whether or not what I've proposed is true or not, no one can say, but maybe sometime in the future we'll know.

albatron
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From: Stuart, Florida, USA
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posted 12-04-2014 09:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I sent one of these to Dr. Thornton on Nov. 5, along with a SMEAT cover and crew pic. Actually I totally forgot he didn't sign these STS-8 covers (already signed by the other four). So hopefully we'll find out before too terribly long.

You guys really think $500? Interesting. I'd think that was high.

Bob M
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posted 12-08-2014 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hopefully, Al, your items will come back signed, but from what we know, it's extremely unlikely that Dr. Thornton will sign the STS-8 flown cover.

Possibly $500 is somewhat of a high estimate for any STS-8 flown cover signed by Dr. Thornton and the other four. But if Thornton did sign, say, 25 covers resulting in those being the only 25 complete crew signed STS-8 flown covers available to collectors, they would certainly be in demand. Surely, many collectors and investors would want one of these famous covers of such rarity.

albatron
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posted 12-08-2014 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
True enough Bob. As an update, received my items back from Thornton today with a note on my letter saying they were ordered not to sign them and no one has rescinded that order in spite of him requesting several times. SO he did not sign that but he did sign my SMEAT cover and photo.

So about a 33 day turnaround.

Mike_The_First
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From: Joliet, IL
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posted 12-08-2014 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike_The_First   Click Here to Email Mike_The_First     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bob M:
Surely, many collectors and investors would want one of these famous covers of such rarity.

The same can be said for his autograph in general though.

I'd find your angle easier to believe if he didn't sign at all.

Likewise, I have no issue believing that his goal is to stay true to NASA's "orders" and NASA hasn't, for whatever reason, bothered to rescind them.

Bob M
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posted 12-08-2014 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In stating that the same can be said of his autograph in general though, do you mean if he signed some STS-8 flown covers only himself? With Dale Gardner deceased now, the Thornton-signed flown covers couldn't be completed and with only his autograph on them they would be of only minor extra value.

Yes, indications are that he is steadfastly adhering to NASA's long-forgotten order/request of the crew not signing the flown covers (long broken by the other four crew members) and that STS-8 complete crew signed flown covers will never be available to collectors.

With his stance - noble or otherwise - he is denying collectors (or dealers/opportunists from capitalizing on them) some very special Space Shuttle collectibles that would be enjoyed by many.

Many of us long-time collectors who have one or more STS-8 flown covers signed by the other four have long-waited for Dr. Thornton to finally change his mind, but it appears that we will be forever disappointed.

Mike_The_First
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posted 12-08-2014 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike_The_First   Click Here to Email Mike_The_First     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bob M:
In stating that the same can be said of his autograph in general though, do you mean if he signed some STS-8 flown covers only himself?

I'm saying that if he refused to sign anything, then anything bearing his signature would be worth quite a bit for whomever he did sign for.

But since he has no problem with signing what seems like anything else (regardless of the presence of other signatures), then I think it's flawed logic to assume the possibility of him not signing these so that his stockpile may be worth more instead of believing that he's following a long out of date edict that needs to be overturned by NASA.

If he's looking to profit from his autograph or use it to leave his family a nestegg, there are better ways to do it than signing only X number of flown covers and refusing to sign any others, while lying about the reason.

Skepticism can be healthy, but, in this case, I feel it more detrimental than positive to question "the official story" and look for/ponder other reasons, when his explanation seems equally valid.

Bob M
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posted 12-09-2014 01:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It does appear that Dr. Thornton has made an effort to have the decades-old order from NASA rescinded, but steadfastly clings to that "order" while waiting decades for the order to come. Of course, everyone at NASA in authority has long-since forgotten about that policy (actually more of a request), including the other four crew members (one of which signed one of the -8 flown covers for me in person), who for decades have willingly signed the -8 flown covers, resulting in an expected large number of Thornton-less STS-8 incomplete crew signed covers. Evidently, the other STS-8 astronauts aren't as "noble" as Dr. T in abiding by the NASA request of 30 years ago.

As a Space Shuttle autograph collector, I believe I speak for many others who are frustrated and disappointed by Dr. T's stance and feel that he's depriving the space hobby of very special collectibles - for an out-dated, forgotten, and, actually, flawed reason - and possibly not the entire reason.

JasonB
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posted 12-09-2014 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JasonB   Click Here to Email JasonB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I too thought it would be a reasonably cool item to have signed(as cool as a postal cover can be) til I read this thread.

I must say that I agree with the previous post about Thornton's policy. It simply makes no sense. I mean just say you don't sign them because you don't feel like it, you're saving some to sell later, you hate them. Anything would make more sense than that.

It kind of reminds me of Ken Mattingly's autograph policy. He doesn't feel comfortable charging for autographs, he charges for the lecture and then signs for "free." But he only really signs if you pay a whole lot for a lecture because he doesn't really sign for free anywhere else or sign for charity. At some point I just find myself thinking this really doesn't make any sense whatsoever and that's pretty much what I thought about this. Time to move on to collecting something a whole lot less needlessly complicated.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-09-2014 02:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
He was asked not to sign the covers. He doesn't sign the covers. It doesn't get much more simple than that.

Bob M
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posted 12-09-2014 03:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The other four were asked not to sign the covers; they do. That's also simple.

Mike_The_First
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posted 12-09-2014 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike_The_First   Click Here to Email Mike_The_First     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That doesn't make Thornton's stance any less valid, unless you have evidence that his claimed requests to NASA to lift the policy and NASA's lack of so doing didn't happen in the way he relates.

While accurate, all your statement means is that they have differing values/opinions, as all people do. In society in general, some don't follow rules or laws that they view as unnecessary or archaic. Others actively campaign for the repeal of those laws, while continuing to follow them until a repeal is granted.

Saying X does this despite being told not to while Y won't, so Y, therefore, must have other reasons besides being told not to is a definite logical fallacy.

albatron
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posted 12-09-2014 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well whatever his "true" reasoning is, it's all moot as he's not saying anything other than he's adhering to a policy. We can speculate all day.

The key is, how would one go about petitioning NASA to change the policy?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-09-2014 04:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The road block I ran into was a lack of institutional knowledge. No one knew or remembered who set the original policy, nor the reason(s) for it, and so there was reluctance to issue any type of letter overriding it. NASA is also not in the practice of telling its former astronauts how to conduct their private business, and so no one really knew how to proceed.

Thornton's policy may be (and is) simple, but correcting for it, not so much.

Greggy_D
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posted 12-09-2014 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
He was asked not to sign the covers. He doesn't sign the covers. It doesn't get much more simple than that.

Agreed. Dr. Thornton doesn't owe any of us anything nor is he "depriving" us collectors.

Respect his decision no matter how much you may disagree with it.

albatron
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posted 12-09-2014 09:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, I wholeheartedly agree it's his right nor does he owe anyone anything. In the letter I got back he expressed regret he could not, therefore, if the roadblock was removed he would feel better about it.

I don't think anyone is suggesting he did owe us nor not to respect his decision - I certainly do.

Thanks Rob - it may be worth looking into. I'll see where I can get. Probably no where, but what the hey.

Bob M
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posted 12-11-2014 07:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Glad that everyone here is in agreement with Dr. Thornton's stance of not signing any STS-8 flown covers until he gets the OK from NASA, and admire his decision.

Of course he can sign or not sign anything he wishes - as many astronauts choose to do. As an astronaut autograph collector for 42 years - much longer than many here have been collecting or even alive - have encountered many astronauts who don't sign and give no reason, or return anything sent to them. Do I question them or demand why they don't sign? No I don't and accept their decision (often caused by their autographs being exploited).

But Dr. T's situation is quite different and that's why I was brazen enough to bring up my theory - thinking it would make for an interesting discussion. I considered his decision quite unusual, even unique, and in my humble opinion, of dubious reasoning.

The mistake I made was proposing a theory here, as just a possibility, that him not signing the -8 flown covers was because he had a valuable stash of them stored away awaiting their sale by his descendents. Everyone here is in agreement that this can't be happening, so the book is closed on that theory.

Those of us who are serious about collecting crew signed material are more disappointed by Dr. T's stance than those of you who are content with your -8 flown covers being signed by one to four of the crew.

And finally, who, as I was, were at the KSC News Media/Press Site on that rainy night when Dr. T and the load of these USPS/NASA covers were launched aboard Challenger on STS-8? Some of us have a more special connection to these covers than others.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-11-2014 08:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I haven't sought to have any of the STS-8 crew members sign a flown cover. I prefer the covers as they were originally offered to the public. (My personal interest has been to find as low a serial number as possible; my current lowest is no. 2311.)

When I inquired with Thornton back in 2003, it was part of an interview for this site. My follow-up with NASA Headquarters to try to get a letter relinquishing him from the original agreement was out of an interest to help other collectors, like yourself, who desired having their covers signed.

I know that you were just putting forth an idea when you suggested Thornton had other reasons for not signing, but inadvertently that also implied he was being less than honest. The push back you received, at least on my part, was in response to that latter aspect. Thornton hasn't given any reason to think he has been anything but forthcoming, so I don't think it is fair to him to not take him at his word.

That doesn't mean that I don't understand or sympathize with your not being able to complete your cover. I do, and I am sorry that it has left you disappointed.

Glint
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posted 12-11-2014 11:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So this request/policy of NASA for him to refrain from signing applies only to the flown covers for STS-8 and doesn't extend to signing/completing articles such as crew photos? If he freely signs those - and I'm not familiar with his signing habits - it seems that would make his signature less rare, at least for other collectible items.

Discussion of non-postal items is slightly off topic for this thread but was trying to think of the big picture.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-11-2014 11:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, to my knowledge, Thornton is happy to sign any other type of item (including other types of covers), whether they are signed or not signed by his other crewmates. He has only remained steadfast to NASA's original request that he not sign the STS-8 flown covers.

Mike_The_First
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posted 12-11-2014 06:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike_The_First   Click Here to Email Mike_The_First     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The push back you received, at least on my part, was in response to that latter aspect.
Mine as well.
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
If he freely signs those - and I'm not familiar with his signing habits - it seems that would make his signature less rare, at least for other collectible items.
Assuming I understand you correctly, that was exactly my point from earlier. If he was looking to make his signature "rarer", there are many other, easier ways to go about it.

That he signs openly and willingly should effectively disprove the conspiracy theories presented here. Same with the independent corroboration we've seen with regards to NASA's inability/unwillingness to lift the ban.

Sure, other alternatives as possible, but, personally, I feel speculation here is unnecessary and will do more harm than good — even for the sake of discussion.

Bob M
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posted 12-12-2014 05:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So now we're talking about "conspiracy theories"? "Theories" is plural, so please tell us what these two or more "conspiracies" are? And before using such words, it would be best to know the meaning of "conspiracy theory," which is: "A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act." What secret group or alliance are you referring to?

And why would Dr. Thornton want to make his autograph rarer? Or even less rare? Why would he care? And we're not concerned with the rarity of his autograph here, and he's autographed as many items as most other Space Shuttle astronauts, including plenty of other STS-8 and STS-51B covers and crew photos.

And exactly what harm, as stated, can occur from presenting theories and possibilities concerning Dr. Thornton's flown cover stance?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-12-2014 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob, I don't think you meant any harm but ask yourself this: would you have raised your theory to Thornton in-person?

If yes, then fine. But if not, then you shouldn't assume that he isn't reading this, or that someone he knows isn't providing him with the text of this thread.

We've seen it before; members discuss an astronaut (or other noted member of the space community) here, assuming the subject of their discussion will never see it, when in fact the subject is very much aware. In at least one situation, it resulted in the person in question ceasing to sign.

I know you well enough to know that you would regret it if Thornton took offense to a theory and decided in return to stop signing all items. I don't think that would happen in this case, but as you asked what the harm might be, there's your answer.

Neil DC
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posted 12-12-2014 10:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Neil DC   Click Here to Email Neil DC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had a chance to meet Dr. Thornton, his wife and grown up sons in his home state of North Carolina a few years ago.

He was very kind and signed a few pictures and a book for me. He would not sign my STS-8 cover citing some rules he had sworn to follow after the mission. I guess he is just very principled about it, perhaps too principled after all this time. I did not think that there was any other reason for not signing the cover.

I certainly can understand collectors' disappointment over this policy. Some astronauts do go through phases when they will sign, then get tired and stop. Then perhaps meet a collector they like and start signing again. It is a shame that no one could get NASA to officially revoke their signing policy for that crew.

He is indeed a very pleasant astronaut to talk to. A real gentleman.

Bob M
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posted 12-13-2014 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, Robert, I would regret it if I had anything to do with Dr. Thornton ceasing to sign, but I don't think anything stated here would have any real effect on that. And, yes, under the right circumstances I would ask him if he might have stored away a number of complete crew signed flown covers for his family, him perhaps inspired by and them being somewhat along the same lines as the Apollo insurance covers.

But if for whatever reason Dr. T does end his signing at 85 years of age and after kindly signing for the autograph hounds for 47 years since he became an astronaut in 1967, he will have provided more than ample quantities of autographs and time for the hounds to acquire his autograph.

But his reason for not signing the STS-8 flown covers is totally different than that of the dozens of astronauts who don't sign mainly because of the commercialization of their autographs, given freely and trustingly. However, Dr. T's reason, as stated by another poster above and not my words, is that it simply doesn't make sense, and is the crux of the matter to me.

Had he stated that he wouldn't sign the flown covers because of profiteers and commercialization, I believe most, including myself, would have sadly accepted that and moved on.

Being a man of honor, and patience, his decision has to be accepted and now all we can hope for is that at this late date and after waiting 30 years for the OK from NASA, he will reconsider and change his decision. If he does, he will make countless collectors happy, as many STS-8 flown covers, signed by four, are waiting.

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