Did the Apollo 15 Astronauts break the rules?

The team took stamps into space, but got sent packing by NASA...
27 July 2021



It is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 15, incredibly, but didn't that team of astronauts get themselves into a bit of trouble taking things to the moon that they shouldn't have done?


Space boffin Richard Hollingham filled Chris Smith in...

Richard - Yeah, and I think that this group of astronauts, so Dave Scott, Jim Irwin, and Al Worden, got badly maligned, and they got chosen, really, as scapegoats by NASA for what they did. So every astronaut before that mission took things into space. Astronauts take things into space now, and along with their personal possessions. And astronauts were taking objects like stamps, first aid covers with stamps, medallions, all sorts of things. And they have value, of course, once they'd been in space, particularly if they'd been to the moon, and they bring them back to earth. And this was almost like a pension policy. You can see these on auction sites going for hundreds of thousands of dollars some of these things, particularly the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Whereas, you know, Apollo 15 did the same thing. They did a deal with a stamp dealer, took some stamps to the moon, brought them back. The problem was, and how they got found out essentially, was those stamps then went on the market straight away, and they were promised that wouldn't happen. So I think they got badly maligned, because let's look at the achievements of Apollo 15, which was the first J class mission, the first real science mission, to the moon. It had a lunar rover, it had the first deep space walk - I mean, you know, spacewalking we see that on the International Space Station, but this is in deep space on the way back from the moon! I mean, it's crazy. It's absolutely crazy stuff. Al Worden did the spacewalk alongside the Apollo capsule to retrieve some samples from the command module. And they also did this experiment proving Galileo... It was, it

Chris - It was the modern day equivalent of the Guinea and the feather experiment that they did?

Richard - Yeah so, they just got on the moon, dropped a feather and a hammer, and they both hit the surface at the same time. Really cool experiment. You can see it still on the NASA website on YouTube. It's really, I mean, you watch it now - it's still amazing. Because you think, no, surely the hammer's got to hit first, and they just hit exactly the same time. Very cool experiment, very cool mission. And it's a shame that they sometimes get remembered for the stamps.

Chris - They never flew again, any of those astronauts, that never went up again, did they? And so some people were saying it was that that got them on the wrong side.

Richard - Yeah. Certainly, with Al Worden, his book which was, it's just a great book, it's sad that he died just over a year ago. He wrote a lot about this. He's written very honestly about this in his autobiography. But he also had, and I think this is a problem some of the other astronauts had, he had a life beyond the moon. It's that whole thing, what do you do after you've gone to the moon? Some had problems with alcoholism. Others turned to religion. He had always had trouble with NASA. I mean, he stayed on at NASA actually, and had a great career at NASA and never went to the moon again though. But he had a life beyond the moon and actually, you know, came out of it pretty well. And in court cases, they subsequently won against the space agency, you know, that they were badly treated.


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