Spaceflight Insider

The Apollo 13 invoice…

An invoice heralding back to the Apollo era helped provide a bit of levity to the end of the a particularly dark point in NASA history. Photo Credit: LIFE Magazine/Bill Eppridge

In April 1970, LIFE Magazine dispatched photographer Bill Eppridge to the Lovell residence in Houston. Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell, the husband and father of the household, was currently stranded aboard a crippled spacecraft a quarter of a million miles away.

Photo Credit: NASA

Photo Credit: LIFE Magazine/Bill Eppridge

Over the next few days, Eppridge captured the emotions of the Lovell family, as well as the countless friends and well-wishers that ducked in and out of the house. In some of these photos, around the last day of the mission, there are guests who are gathered around a sheet of paper and laughing.

Upon closer inspection, the paper is actually an “invoice.”

A little background info for those of you who are not regular followers of the U.S. manned space program.  After an oxygen tank in the service module had ruptured, the Apollo 13 crew was forced to power down the command module Odyssey and take shelter in the lunar module Aquarius.  The move to the lunar module posed several issues – mainly the fact that the LM was designed for two people, not three – which put a strain on the vehicle’s resources. Later in the mission, the crew used the LM to power up the CM and bring it “back to life.”

The invoice is dated April 17, 1970, the day of splashdown. It is addressed to North American Rockwell – the makers of the command module – and is from Grumman Aerospace Corporation, the makers of the lunar module.

Apollo 13 splashed down successfully later that day.

Incidentally, North American Rockwell never paid the bill; they argued instead that Grumman actually owed them money for towing the lunar module to the moon on Apollos 10, 11, and 12. Sadly, no copies of this invoice exist.

 

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SpaceFlight Insider is a space journal working to break the pattern of bias prevalent among other media outlets. Working off a budget acquired through sponsors and advertisers, SpaceFlight Insider has rapidly become one of the premier space news outlets currently in operation. SFI works almost exclusively with the assistance of volunteers.

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