An interesting ongoing story from NASA, courtesy of Space.com, is that the sale of several items at an auction in Dallas, TX have been suspended pending a claim against the items for which NASA believes are still owned by the space administration. Of the more than 200 space related artifacts sold, the most expensive artifact was the lunar module checklist from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. The checklist is a 70 ring-bound list of instructions on how to manually power up the lunar module Aquarius. In the Apollo 13 mission astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert used the lunar module, or LEM for short, to survive the journey home from the moon after a mid-mission explosion. The checklist was also used as a prop in the 1995 Ron Howard movie starring Tom Hanks.
Heritage Auctions of Dallas received the checklist from Apollo commander Jim Lovell who believed he was the rightful owner of the checklist after finding it while cleaning out a bookshelf at his home. Mr. Lovell is a national hero for his leadership during the 1970 mission and has an excellent reputation outside of the astronaut corps so it’s hard to believe any intentional misdeed on his part. It seems logical that the checklist would belong to NASA but there must have been some confusion regarding its ownership because Lovell has since given away several artifacts from his NASA days to his children and other collectors without upsetting the agency. It would be unfortunate if NASA does hold title for the checklist however, because I have a huge amount of respect for Lovell and all the crew and staff of NASA for their handling of Apollo 13 and would love to own the checklist myself!
Until the ownership is sorted out the checklist will remain in Heritage’s vault. The checklist sold for a record-setting $388,375, the most ever for a space-related artifact.