The checklist booklet used to guide the Apollo 13 spacecraft back to Earth was sold on November 30 at an auction house in Dallas, Texas for a price of $388,375, the highest in Apollo Space Program history for an artifact that has not been on the moon’s surface.
“This little booklet is a powerful reminder of a great American story that was not only a great American moment, but also [a] triumphant moment for the world,” said Michael Riley, Senior Historian at Heritage Auctions. “As far as space memorabilia goes, it’s likely as great as something can get without having actually been to the lunar surface. In many ways it’s even more amazing than that.”
The checklist, written by Commander James Lovell, contains calculations on the spacecraft’s angle of descent back to Earth and other notes for achieving good course alignment. After an oxygen tank explosion two days after the April 11, 1970 Apollo 13 launch, the crew was running out of oxygen and had little chances to return safely. On April 17, 1970 using calculations from this checklist, all of the crew returned safely, splashing down in the Pacific where they were collected by the USS Iwo Jima.
“Without this [booklet] the Apollo 13 crew would not have known their position in space,” said Riley. “It helped create the greatest successful failure in the history of space exploration.”
The Apollo 13 Lunar Module Systems Activation Checklist also had a blue note attached to the booklet, written by Lovell: “…utilized to transfer CSM guidance data to LM guidance system so the spacecraft data of our attitude with respect to the celestial sphere would not be lost. Note the time these calculations were made GET 58 08 06 about two hours after the explosion…” A dramatized version of the moment Lovell writes the calculations on the booklet can be seen in the famous Ron Howard film “Apollo 13” (1995).
The booklet was sold to an anonymous collector from the east coast of the United States.
In the video below, a documentary of the near-fatal mission (Credits: NASA).