Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell Checklist Leads Heritage Auctions Sale

They are some of the most famous words in the history of the NASA Space Program: “Houston, we have a problem.” Now, the Lunar Module Systems Activation Checklist upon which Commander James Lovell made his handwritten calculations to guide his wounded spacecraft and crew home – scant two hours after uttering those famous words – has been consigned by Commander Lovell himself and is expected to bring $25,000+ when it comes across the block as part of Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 30 Space Signature(r) Auction.

“There are few Space artifacts as evocative or important as this little booklet,” said Michael Riley, Senior Historian at Heritage Auctions. “Without these successful calculations and the fast transfer of the information from one computer to the other, the Apollo 13 crew would not have known their position in space, possibly causing the outcome of the already ill-fated mission to be quite different.”

It is a moment expertly dramatized in the 1995 Ron Howard film Apollo 13. At approximately 101 minutes into the movie, there are two extreme close-ups of the prop checklist that match this very lot as Lovell (Tom Hanks) nervously makes the calculations and asks Houston to double-check his arithmetic. His next line perfectly sums up how historically important this piece is: “We’ve got negative visibility in our star field” Hanks, as Lovell, says,” and if this paperwork isn’t right, who knows where we’ll end up out here.”

As a blue note attached to the booklet, in Lovell’s hand, writes, this is the LM Systems Activation Checklist that the Apollo13 Commander “…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…”

“Captain Lovell has held this checklist book in his personal collection for 41 years and now feels it’s time to turn over its stewardship to another person,” said Riley. “This may not have made it to the moon’s surface, but it saved the lives of some of America’s finest, captivated the world’s attention and is an amazing artifact of a moment that was, simultaneously, one of America’s darkest and proudest.”

A major highlight of the auction is sure to be John Young’s Apollo training-used coverall jacket (Estimate: $24,000+), while a Neil Armstrong 1969-dated Autograph Note Signed, which mentions that “the eye sees primarily shades of grey on the Moon, is expected to bring $12,000+.

The Heritage Nov. 30 Space auction contains a host of other superb Apollo program and NASA-related material, including a training used Apollo A7L IVA glove from Alan Shepard (Estimate: $5,000+) and an Apollo 1 crew-signed color photo (Estimate: $4,000+), the last one available from the collection of Roger Chaffee’s widow.

A handwritten Apollo 11 Grumman Lunar Module Construction Log from the collection of noted Chariots for Apollo author and scientist Charles Pellegrino, is expected to entice collectors to the tune of $9,000+, while all three types of Apollo 11 Insurance Covers should prove much in demand and bring upwards of $5,000+ each. A great group of flags flown aboard Apollo 15from mission CMP Al Worden’s collection are expected to bring more than $2,500 each, Jack Lousma’s framed Flight Suit Flown Patches from STS-3, the third-ever Shuttle flight is sure to create collector buzz and stir up spirited bidding with a $10,000+ estimate for these rare patches from the now defunct Shuttle program. – Ha.com

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