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Innovation and Neil Armstrong
Posted by Sam Meers on Tuesday | September 4th, 2012
When Neil Armstrong and the other Apollo 11 astronauts were preparing to land on the moon, they realized it was an extraordinarily dangerous mission. They knew there was a strong likelihood they would not return to Earth and therefore, would not be able to take care of their families.
When the astronauts looked at getting life insurance they found it would cost $50,000 annually. This, of course, was 1969. In 2012 dollars, that is more like $245,000 annually. Not something an astronaut (or virtually anyone else) could afford in 1969.
Astronauts, in general, are smart. Ingenious, even. And Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin were no exception. They did have one key asset, their fame.
People wanted the astronauts’ autographs. And while no one had been making a market out of autographs in the 60s, these guys knew if something happened to them, their autographs would be worth a lot of money. This was especially true for what were called “covers” — envelopes signed by the astronauts and postmarked on specific dates.
Before the launch, the three astronauts signed thousands of “covers.” They had them postmarked by a fellow astronaut on the day of the launch and the day of the lunar landing. If they didn’t return from the moon, the covers would become highly valuable. It was an innovative way to create an insurance policy for their families.
Too often, we take status quo as the only option. So life insurance is too expensive? Guess we’ll just pass on that.
What Armstrong and the other Apollo 11 astronauts did was ingenious. They connected the dots between one of their only assets – their fame, and what it might be worth in the event of their deaths.
I guess that is to be expected from people who are inherently challenging the status quo. After all, they were going to the moon.