An example of an insurance cover
An example of an insurance cover

As is often the case with people in dangerous professions, the Apollo astronauts found that life insurance policies were prohibitively expensive. Rather than pay the exorbitant insurance fees, the astronauts devised a system to ensure their wives and children would be financially taken care of in the not-altogether-unlikely event of disaster.

Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins autographs were highly prized by space enthusiasts, so in the months leading up to the launch of Apollo 11, the crew spent much of their spare time autographing postage envelopes that were imprinted with Apollo images. The crew took 214 of these envelopes with them in the capsule. They entrusted the rest with an Earth-bound friend, who visited a Texas post office on launch day (16 July 1969) and again on the day Apollo 11 landed (20 July 1969) to affix a six-cent postage stamp and have them postmarked with the historic date.

The envelopes were distributed among the astronauts’ families, with instructions to sell them if the crew was unable to return. These would come to be known as the “insurance covers,” and the strategy was reused for subsequent Apollo missions.

Most of the covers were eventually given as gifts to family, friends, and associates. They can occasionally be found at space memorabilia auctions selling for anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000.