Fame did not come easily for Jim Lovell and his two crewmates on NASA’s aborted Apollo 13 moon mission. The astronauts nearly died after an explosion tore apart part of their spaceship on April 13, 1970, but ingenuity, endurance and sheer luck prevailed and the trio made it home safely.
Now apparently fortune is taking a likewise star-crossed path. Lovell sold a notebook that was used during the mission at auction in November for $388,375. The check, however, is not in the mail.
Heritage Auctions on Thursday said the sale of the 70-page binder, which includes handwritten calculations by Lovell, is being suspended after NASA launched an investigation into whether it was the astronaut’s property to sell.
“In an email to Heritage, NASA Deputy Chief Counsel Donna M. Shafer said there appeared to be ‘nothing to indicate’ that the agency had ever transferred ownership of the checklist to Lovell,” The Associated Press reports
“Only NASA has the authority to clear NASA property for sale,” Shafer said in the email, which was provided by NASA to The Associated Press.
The matter is now in the hands of NASA’s Office of Inspector General.
It’s not the first time NASA has gone after its Apollo heros. The agency sued Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell last year over a camera. Mitchell agreed in October to return it to NASA.
“Mitchell’s attorney had argued prior to the settlement that NASA officials told astronauts long ago they could keep certain equipment from the missions, and many such items wind up on auction house lists. A 1972 NASA memo seems to back up that claim, requiring only that the astronauts provide the agency with lists of items in their possession,” AP reports.
Image: Apollo 13 command module Odyssey safely on deck of the U.S.S. Iwo Jima recovery ship after a harrowing journey. Credit: NASA