Money Matters - Simplified

Apollo 13 checklist sells for $380k

Lovell's calculations to transfer the command module’s navigation data to the lunar module guidance system were critical to identify the crew’s position in space and land the spacecraft safely.

Commander James Lovell's famous checklist that helped steer the failed Apollo 13 mission home was snapped up for $388,375 at an auction in Texas.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions sold the checklist Wednesday to an anonymous collector during its 'Space Signature Auction' that included more than 200 space artifacts.

With a pre-auction estimate of only $25,000, Lovell’s pencil scrawled notes attracted the highest price for a piece of space memorabilia that never actually made it to the moon's surface, Heritage Auctions said.

Michael Riley, senior historian at the Dallas-based auction house said, “This little booklet is a powerful reminder of a great American story that was not only a great American moment, but also triumphant moment for the world.

“As far as space memorabilia goes, it's likely as great as something can get without having actually been to the lunar surface. In many ways it's even more amazing than that. Without this (booklet) the Apollo 13 crew would not have known their position in space.”

“It helped create the greatest successful failure in the history of space exploration,” Riley said.

“We didn't have the technology back then that we have now,” Lovell said. “I didn't even have a calculator to do the arithmetic. I had to ask the people in Houston to double-check my numbers.”

The Apollo 13 emergency return
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the U.S. space program and was supposed to be the third lunar landing.

The 1970 mission was aborted en route to the moon after an external oxygen tank exploded and damaged the spacecraft some 200,000 miles from Earth.

With two of the spacecraft's oxygen tanks failing and the power system becoming unreliable, the lunar module became the lifeboat for the crew of Apollo 13.

Lovell's calculations to transfer the command module’s navigation data to the lunar module guidance system were critical to identify the crew’s position in space and land the spacecraft safely.

“We didn't have the technology back then that we have now,” Lovell said. “I didn't even have a calculator to do the arithmetic. I had to ask the people in Houston to double-check my numbers.”

Mission watched worldwide
The Apollo 13 mission's progress was followed by people all over the world on radio, television and in papers, from the time of the malfunction, through the final tense moments of the re-entry.

The true story of the moon-bound mission that developed a malfunction and was rescued by the crew's skill and dedication has been captured in Ron Howard's 1995 film “Apollo 13,” starring Tom Hanks as Lovell.

“We had interest in this piece from so many different corners,” Riley said. “Not just Space collectors, but people from all corners of the planet, collectors and non-collectors alike. It's such an evocative piece, reminding us of the very best things that humans can accomplish in the face of adversity.”