Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Moon NASA The Almighty Buck Idle

What The Apollo 11 Crew Did For Life Insurance 168

Posted by samzenpus
from the sign-your-life-away dept.
Back in 1969 insurance companies weren't very optimistic about the odds of an astronaut making it back to earth after being launched in a rocket to the moon. The cost of life insurance for the Apollo 11 crew was astronomically high so they came up with a clever solution. A month before launch, the astronauts signed hundreds of autographs that were to be sold if they didn't make it back. From the article: "About a month before Apollo 11 was set to launch, the three astronauts entered quarantine. And, during free moments in the following weeks, each of the astronauts signed hundreds of covers. They gave them to a friend. And on important days — the day of the launch, the day the astronauts landed on the moon — their friend got them to the post office and got them postmarked, and then distributed them to the astronauts' families. It was life insurance in the form of autographs."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What The Apollo 11 Crew Did For Life Insurance

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:29AM (#41187459)

    bet against yourself?

    • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
      Not a good idea... you still want to make it and not feel like lost something while doing so. The autograph idea is pretty good actually. A dead astronaut's autograph probably sells well.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:28AM (#41187691)
        What is the big need for insurance? I guess they could have tripped in the studio, or had a light fall on them.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by flappinbooger (574405)

          What is the big need for insurance? I guess they could have tripped in the studio, or had a light fall on them.

          Well, I only got a policy once I had a wife, kids, house. That's the only reason to have "real" life insurance. Keep your family afloat if you kick the bucket.

          A stack of post-marked autographs would probably have been able to support their astronaut family lifestyle for a good while. Pay off debt, put little johnny through college.

          If you're a single geek living in your mom's basement a simple cheap cracker-jack-box $20k policy is enough to stick you in the ground with. You might even be able to get that fro

        • What is the big need for insurance? I guess they could have tripped in the studio, or had a light fall on them.

          Apparently you never saw the movie Capricorn One, where a faked Mars landing occurs. This movie's plot demonstrates how even a faked landing can be severely life threatening to the astronauts.

          And yes I know the Apollo missions were *real*. I also support legislation giving Buzz Aldrin lifetime immunity for punching deniers in the face.

    • by djsmiley (752149)

      The only good odds you'd get would be for you surviving, not dying.

      Yeah, I originally thought the same thing then realized the issue. It only works if they _expect_ you to survive.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @06:25AM (#41187945)

      bet against yourself?

      This is the entire crux of life insurance anyway.

      You buy life insurance because your wager is that you're going to die at any moment

      Insurance companies wager that you're not going to die for a very long time...or at least long enough to rake in a decent profit.

      • by ibwolf (126465)

        bet against yourself?

        This is the entire crux of life insurance anyway.

        You buy life insurance because your wager is that you're going to die at any moment

        Insurance companies wager that you're not going to die for a very long time...or at least long enough to rake in a decent profit.

        No, it's not a wager, it's a hedge. You know that you will probably continue on living, but you hedge your bets against the alternative. It is both prudent and sensible (assuming you have a family who depends you) to take out life insurance on those terms.

        • by beelsebob (529313)

          hedge your bets

          You mean... it's a bet? A wager? Being a hedged bet does not mean it's not a bet.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Roujo (2577771)
            It's the opposite, really. A hedge is something you do in case your bet fails, so since insurance is a hedge, the wager cannot be that you're going to die. You bet/wager that you're going to keep living, and you hedge that bet by getting insurance just in case.
        • by fm6 (162816)

          OED: "To secure oneself against loss on (a bet or other speculation) by making transactions on the other side so as to compensate more or less for possible loss on the first. "

    • Careful individual financial management always bets on both sides. It limits your upside, but protects the downside. This was an admittedly creative way of ensuring financial stability for their families. A bit morbid, but I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same thing if it meant ensuring that - if I didn't make it back - my family was accounted for.

      • There is nothing morbid about objectively contemplating your demise on a very dangerous mission.
    • well... That's what Hedgefunds do....

      bet huge sums on something, and slightly less against to minimize losses....

  • Hardly usable for me, when i'm heading toward the 10 meters high diving board...

  • by zakkie (170306) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:36AM (#41187485) Homepage

    I see what you did there :)

  • by tanveer1979 (530624) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:39AM (#41187497) Homepage Journal

    A group of people embark on a journey which is indeed a giant leap for our entire species. And their kind can't even provide their familes with basic security.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:50AM (#41187543)

      I perfectly agree. More practically, why couldn't NASA guarantee an annuity to their families shouldn't they return home?
      I don't think it would have been so detrimental for NASA's balance sheet...

      • by kasperd (592156) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:01AM (#41187599) Homepage Journal

        why couldn't NASA guarantee an annuity to their families shouldn't they return home? I don't think it would have been so detrimental for NASA's balance sheet...

        I agree, that's what NASA should have done. But even if they didn't guarantee it beforehand, they might still be able to provide the funds after the fact. Is there any documentation on what happened in those (three?) cases where NASA missions did result in fatalities?

        • Capitalism being what it is, even if NASA or the Federal Government wrote a special protection plan for the families of the astronauts in the program, one that covered all their needs and then some, the opportunity for insurance by autograph existed, so why not cover that position too?

          I wonder if the market would have supported a flood of autographs or if the volume availability would have devalued them the way modern baseball cards have.

          By the way, I met the son of a "hot laundry" worker at a cold war nucl

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Who says they wouldn't have? They were eligible for normal military / government death benefits and would have been fools not to enroll in these programs. The story just sounds better if you start with the false assumption that NASA was prepared to leave them out in the cold so they had to be clever fend for themselves.

        Another thing that would deflate the story is if the astronauts were going to cash in on the autographs regardless of whether they lived or died, which is exactly what did happen.

        Nor do

    • Military officers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:52AM (#41187551)

      A group of people embark on a journey which is indeed a giant leap for our entire species. And their kind can't even provide their familes with basic security.

      All of them were military officers with over 20 years. Wouldn't their families have gotten at least their retirement or something?

      And I'm sure the President would have at least ordered somethign special or worked the system so that the families would have gotten some portion of the military pay.

      • by ewanm89 (1052822)
        From what I make out, yes being military astronauts they retain full military benefits. If they had resigned their commissions then civilian astronauts get similar provisions to federal agents. I'm sure a form of life insurance is part of the package either way.
      • by geekmux (1040042)

        ...And I'm sure the President would have at least ordered somethign special or worked the system so that the families would have gotten some portion of the military pay.

        Really? I'm not so sure that I would have wasted what may have been my last few precious moments on earth signing hundreds of pieces of paper with my name, had something been in place already.

        I wouldn't bee too confident with this theory. They certainly felt like they needed to do more at the time.

        • by f3rret (1776822)

          Really? I'm not so sure that I would have wasted what may have been my last few precious moments on earth signing hundreds of pieces of paper with my name, had something been in place already.

          I wouldn't bee too confident with this theory. They certainly felt like they needed to do more at the time.

          Just because you wouldn't doesn't mean that the Apollo guys wouldn't.

          Maybe they just didn't think that whatever the military offered at the time would be enough, so they took out extra insurance. Doesn't regular soldiers do that sometimes too? I mean take out a private life insurance to supplement their military one.

          • by Cwix (1671282)

            Doesn't regular soldiers do that sometimes too? I mean take out a private life insurance to supplement their military one.

            Yes, it sometimes happens. If I am not mistaken it tends to be pricy, and even stuff marketed to soldiers may include a war clause anyways.
            The SGLI (Servicemembers Group Life Insurance) that is offered to soldiers is up to 400k and costs something like 30 bucks a month.

        • According TFA, the astronauts signed the cards in their free time while in quarantine in preparation for the flight. It's like you or them could have gone to a ball game while in quarantine.
        • by HCase (533294)

          What would you have wasted the time doing instead?

          Keep in mind, this was done while they were in quarantine, so they weren't exactly going to be spending that time with their families or hitting up the bar.

      • by Toad-san (64810)

        You don't understand how military retirement pay (don't call it a pension) works.

        When a retired military person dies, so does his retirement pay. Right that second (although the service is usually kind enough to round the last retirement check out to the end of the month .. but no guarantees).

        They came up with "Survivors Benefits", where you basically buy an insurance policy using part of the retirement pay that will pay the surviving spouse 50% of the retired service member's retirement pay.

        At first it wa

        • Re:Military officers (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Friday August 31, 2012 @10:16AM (#41189693)
          My dad was Army for 4 years, then worked for the US Government for 23 years. When his retirement was calculated they included the military time for ~27 years of service. After he died, my mother gets 50% of the benefit, plus government health insurance. I don't know if this was automatic, or they had to pay for it.

          AFAIK, when you retire makes a big difference. How old you are, and exactly what laws are in effect at the time of retirement can cause the numbers to be different for people who might have retired only a few months apart.

          Also, my dad told me what might be a military legend. Your retirement pay is based on "highest rank received", vs. your rank at the time of retirement. During WWII it was common for a corporal to be the highest ranking member of his group left after an attack, and would be field promoted to a lieutenant or higher by the nearest officer. These field promotions wouldn't last much longer than the current battle, but would be included in calculating retirement benefits.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:58AM (#41187579)

      If that group of people didn't want to take the risk, they could have stepped back. There would have been no shortage of applicants to replace them. If an astronaut with a family is not insurable, then perhaps people with families that depend on them shouldn't ride into space on tons of rocket fuel.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:27AM (#41187689)

        Damn right! I hate people who stick their necks out and take risks. They should have spent their careers fixing printers and ducking work in a cubicle somewhere like responsible and productive members of society and not be so irresponsible.

        This is something the science-y liberals will never understand. We have it good enough, dammit. We don't need someone to rock the boat and cause people to hope and dream of better things for themselves and the species.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday August 31, 2012 @06:29AM (#41187957) Homepage

        How very republican of you.

        God damned astronauts... trying to suck from the public teat!

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Of all people, the astronauts are probable most aware of the risk and still willing to go, enthusiastically. The government pays for their trip into fucking space. The prevailing emotion here should be envy, not pity.

        • by J4 (449)

          That attitude is always best coming from people in public service.
          Politicians, law enforcement, defense, transportation, education, sanitation, parks.
          They seem to think they're different because they don't hate america like the people who pay the majority of their salaries.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      That is how things work in the USA.. Men are asked to do great things, but FUCK your family if you die. It continues today with heros that are sent to war, they die and their families get a flag.

      As a nation we treat our warriors and heroes as crappy as possible.

      Want recent proof? Look at what the complete scumbags in congress did for the 9/11 responders fund to just pay for medical bills.

      • As a nation we treat our warriors and heroes as crappy as possible.

        Over the decades, I've seen some very uneven treatment in this area: military, police, fire, and similar benefits range from princely to insulting, and not based so much on merit, rank, or quality of service, but mostly on the economic climate at the time of service. Consistently, if you want a king's ransom, you'll have to make that on your own in the private sector, but if you're happy with a 3000sf house on 10 acres in Hawaii and money to travel at will, it's amazing how many public sector/military reti

        • ... Consistently, if you want a king's ransom, you'll have to make that on your own in the private sector, but if you're happy with a 3000sf house on 10 acres in Hawaii and money to travel at will, it's amazing how many public sector/military retirees can pull that off.

          Not really that amazing. The first way to make enough money to retire to the Hawiian estate, is to inherit it. Many politicians/bureaucrats take this route. Pick your parents wisely. (:-)

          The next way to become rich is networking. With a proper network, you can marry well, and find good jobs after you leave the public sector.

          The most important thing to getting rich, don't spend all your money, and invest wisely. You network can let you in on the best investments.

      • by OverkillTASF (670675) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:28AM (#41189139)
        "heros that are sent to war, they die and their families get a flag"

        Wrong.

        An LA times article on war death benefits:
        http://articles.latimes.com/2003/apr/05/news/war-benefits5 [latimes.com]

        And the department of veterans' affairs if you want to go reading more: http://www.vba.va.gov/survivors/agencies.htm [va.gov]

        These things aren't generally just a flat lump sum payment. And a lot of it I'm sure military members can opt out of, probably for some negligible increase in base pay. Military families aren't left to twist in the wind when their service member dies. If you're father dies in military service, that shouldn't be treated like a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket. As in any job, if you're in the military it is up to you to ensure the financial security of your family. Many of the benefits are opt-in benefits like very cheap life insurance, matched savings plans, etc. If you are the type who doesn't save a dime, lives at the very edge of your means, and doesn't contribute to any kind of retirement/life insurance fund... you've screwed your families future over, not the U.S. Government. Even in the worst case scenario, families are at least compensated sufficiently (financially) for a few years. No amount of money is going to replace a lost loved one on an emotional scale, but seems to me that the U.S. military does a good job of making it plenty financially survivable.
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          "These things aren't generally just a flat lump sum payment. And a lot of it I'm sure military members can opt out of, probably for some negligible increase in base pay. Military families aren't left to twist in the wind when their service member dies. "

          I love your fiction, you should write more books.

          Le'ts switch to reality, show me ONE family that dad died in iraq and is doing great. because I can show you HUNDREDS that are struggling hard, and that is just in my area alone. Maybe if you actually ta

          • So you're alleging that despite the benefits agreed upon between the enlisted soldier and the U.S. government, the U.S. government widely and regularly breaks this contract and doesn't uphold its end of the bargain?

            I'm not talking about what we think is right or what people think military families are owed. Nor do I think the system is broken and the government is evil when a family, military or not, runs into financial difficulty because of a failure to plan or a series of bad decisions.

            Can you provide
            • by Qzukk (229616)

              not just government-ineptitude resulting in slow processing of a family's due payment, but willful disregard of the government's contractual obligations?

              Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to government incompetence?

              Of course he can't show "willful disregard". The paperwork for disregarding the paperwork was misfiled and he's still waiting on the request for disregarding disregarded paperwork to be processed, but that's because it's his own fault for following the instructions printed on the pap

      • I'm pretty sure the guys "sent to war" weren't drafted. They signed up for the military, and as such they had a reasonable expectation that they might be sent into combat and get shot at.

        I'm not debating whether the death benefits are fair, or whether some of the people who enlist have any other job prospects, just saying that these people _chose_ to be in the military, and there's a risk of them dying in combat, just like if I get a job cleaning septic tanks there's a higher risk of me getting covered in

      • Men are asked to do great things, but FUCK your family if you die.

        These astronauts covered the scenario cleverly by their own means. Why would you try to force a social safety net upon a situation where it's not needed? That's beyond stubborn ideology.

    • The government did pay them $8 per day per diem while they were in space, minus costs for accomodations since they were provided with beds and shelter.

      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/apollo-11s-astronauts-received-8-141240938.html [yahoo.com]

    • by afidel (530433)

      Actually their survivors would have received both social security survivor benefits (the same ones that paid for Paul Ryan's college education) and military survivor benefits. I'm not sure what percentage of their normal officers salary that would have worked out to be but they would have received some basic security.

    • Most of the astronauts were soldiers, or recent soldiers. NASA contractors followed the model of militiary contractors, on hog-heaven since winning WWII. Soldiers cant get significant life insurance because of the relatively high probability of their death.

      Ironically, Armstrong was from the nascent "civilian" side of NASA. That grew into dominance by the Shuttle age.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:46AM (#41187527)

    Ask not what your Life Insurance can do for you, Ask what you can do for your Life Insurance.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they crash landed on the moon and all died it's really hard to imagine the 3 widows being evicted from their houses or eating out of soup kitchens, with the media attention that kind of event would generate congress/nasa/somebody would have to do something about it? Presumably at worst they'd be giving a highly paid interview about the trauma they'd endured or a special fundraiser would've been held for them...

    It would NOT have been the same thing happening as if some trailer trash in Alabama who nobody

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That depends. If Mitt were president back then, he would have expected those women to go out and get jobs and better themselves - not be god damned freeloaders sucking off the government teat for the rest of their lives. Their husbands were already freeloaders - taking money from the pockets of hard working tax-payers and wasting untold millions on a government boondoggle started by a democrat that just threw money around like it was water.

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:18AM (#41187659)

    I'm not saying it didn't happen. I'm saying it doesn't make sense. NASA should have just handled the death benefits. Setting up annuities would have been a minuscule part of their total budget. My grandpa was working in the industry in that era and once the space race was declared "on", the money flowed like wine.

    • by pthisis (27352)

      More like wine, whiskey, beer, cider, scotch, tequila, rum, and everything else: NASA was 4% of the federal budget at its peak.

    • I think the death benefits were there, this was just a supplemental scheme...

    • by Bigby (659157)

      Correct. The risk of death was so high, why would you buy insurance? For instance, if NASA were to insure them, they would be better off paying the money out of their own pockets (well, the Fed could just print the money). Why pay a premium that is nearly the full cost of the benefits?

      This is like getting health insurance after you got cancer. But I guess people are trying to get that to happen now. Do people understand what "insurance" means?

  • In case all three astronauts would die before landing to the moon, who would buy those signatures?
    Even if each of them signed 100 papers, then the price of each paper should be over 1000 USD (e.g. to cover basic 100,000 USD life insurance)
    • by BillyGee (981263)

      Keep in mind this was 1969, a new house cost $25k, average wage was $8k, Pontiac Transam was $4k, Cadiallac deVille $6k. Refrigerators, washing machines and such were $150-$200, fruit cost about 10 cents/lb, etc.

      Notwithstanding the great non-monetary loss to the family, $100k would be quite a lot more than "basic" back then.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:44AM (#41187769)

    This contrasts sharply with the actions of some members of the Apollo 15 crew that actively attempted to profit from lunar memorabilia of their own [wikipedia.org] creation [wikipedia.org].

    • by rikkards (98006)

      I will give you the stamps as an example but the Fallen Astronaut copies was the artist trying to profit. The astronauts didn't want any of it. They tried to keep it all quiet.

  • Soon after I heard of Neil Armstrong's passing I was chatting with my wife about the lack of real heroes, men that were so far above mortal men with actions, deeds and behavior that all of us could only look up to them in awe.

    From now on we'll hear more and more about the Apollo 11 crew and I truly doubt what we'll hear will make them lesser Gods. These little tidbits of how these men were scared but braved through it accomplish such feats are part of the mythology of our times.

    Full moon tonight, don't forg

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @08:13AM (#41188493)

    Yes, that's right - freeloaders. Sucking off the government teat swollen with the cash of a Democratic president who just didn't know how to say no to federal spending. Millions and millions of dollars...for what? A few guys walk on the moon, bring back some rocks, then scrap the program. Useless government waste I say. This was possibly the only thing of commercial value - and even if they had died the signatures should have been sold to cover the massive federal hemorrhage that was the space program. I mean, they signed those on government time, they belonged to the government. Where is the IP outrage?

    If Mitt were president, we wouldn't have to worry about this kind of foolishness - we'd have bought the ruskies at a fire sale, stripped the cash they had, leveraged their oil fields, and sold the rest to the chinese. We'd ALL be living on caviar and drinking Dom Perignon while admiring our fleet of American vehicles from one of many vacation homes today.

    Fuck the Democrats - Romney / Ryan 2012!!!

    (gotta remember to check that AC box this time...no sense squandering karma!)

  • NPR (Score:4, Funny)

    by cHiphead (17854) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:00AM (#41188863)

    Hey look, someone else was listening to NPR.

  • by caseih (160668) on Friday August 31, 2012 @09:08AM (#41188915)

    Interestingly enough, after 40 odd years, one of these signed covers is now worth nearly $30,000 to a collector.

  • They could have also made a few extra special items, like recordings karaoke, and other memorabilia stuffs to sell out there (ebay didnt exist back then, but you get the drift)...that would also made them even more money....

  • Did they not have death in service benefits and widows pensions already as they where all milatery types - sounds like a way to cash in on the side :-)
  • From what I've heard, the astronauts got $8 a day per diem while they were off planet, minus ... wait on it, room and board. No kidding.

186,000 Miles per Second. It's not just a good idea. IT'S THE LAW.

Working...