Apollo 13 Mission Manual: For the Armchair Astronaut Who Has Everything

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Are you a hardcore fan of NASA’s “Golden Age” of space travel? Can you rattle off random trivia, facts and figures for every Apollo mission, to the exasperation of your friends and family? Is Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin ready to slap you with a restraining order if you don’t stop hanging out by the stage door of “Dancing With the Stars” in hopes of snagging his autograph?

Well, Gizmodo has some welcome news for you! On April 13 in New York City, Bonhams will auction off pages from the Apollo 13 mission manual, with handwritten notes by flight commander Jim Lovell. You remember Apollo 13, right? Of course you do. It was the third Apollo mission intended to land on the moon, but things went horribly wrong when an oxygen tank ruptured and forced the lunar landing to be aborted. The new mission: get the crew back down to Earth alive.

They had to evacuate the Odyssey command module — which was rapidly leaking oxygen into space — and take refuge in the LEM (lunar landing module), not to mention figure out how to conserve enough energy during the trip so that they could restart the command module computer for a successful re-entry. And it worked! Thanks to an enormous team effort, both in space and back on Earth, Apollo 13 became known as NASA’s “successful failure.”

Why would anyone pay good money for a few tattered pages from a 40-year-old user’s manual? Per Gizmodo: “These pages described how to power down the electric systems in the spacecraft, to save energy that was going to be needed during the final approach to Earth.” That’s right: those pages saved three astronauts’ lives and made space exploration history. And in a timely nod to history, the auction will take place on the very day the accident happened 40 years ago.

Personally, I’m holding out for the auction of the gag “invoice” Grumman Aerospace Corporation, the builder of the Lunar Module, issued to North American Rocktwell, which build the Command Module. The invoice charged a whopping $312,421.24 for “towing” the crippled ship most of the way to the moon and back — although there was a 20% “commercial discount,” and an additional offer of 2% off if North American paid in cash. Per Wikipedia: “North American politely declined payment, noting that they had ferried Grumman LMs to the moon on three previous occasions with no such reciprocal charges.”

So if you need me, I’ll be trolling E-Bay for any more Apollo 13 loot that might be up for grabs… Or, you know, watching Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 for the umpteenth time.