Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NASA Month: Life Insurance


All this month, I'm NASA! This means every weekday in March will feature a new post about NASA, and I'm hosting a giant giveaway in order to encourage people to spread the NASA love. For more information on the giveaway, check out this post.

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Life Insurance

I think one of the things I find most fascinating about NASA is the early history of the Space Race. The whole concept of the Space Race itself is amazing--as I mention in Shades of Earth, technology moves at an incredibly fast pace. About a hundred years ago, cars were almost unheard of, and flight had barely kicked off on the beach at Kitty Hawk. A half-century later, and we were putting a man on the moon. 

(For a great article on the top ten things you didn't know about the Space Race--including Soviet turtles and more, click here.)

Today, going into space seems like something viable for public commerce in a few more years. Virgin Galaxy is already planning commercial orbital flights. But during the Space Race...things were much different. 

One of my favorite stories about the Space Race is how Neil Armstrong and company got life insurance. Or, rather, they didn't. Going into space was a scary thing--so scary that many people were certain that the astronauts would never survive it, and no life insurance company would provide a policy for the astronauts. 

via NPR
Of course, Neil and the other astronauts had families, and they wanted to make sure their families would be provided for in the seemingly likely chance they didn't survive the trip to the moon. And, since life insurance wasn't forthcoming, the astronauts came up with a rather clever way to ensure their family's protection:
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 [envelopes signed by the astronauts with postmarks of important dates]. 
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. 
"If they did not return from the moon, their families could sell them — to not just fund their day-to-day lives, but also fund their kids' college education and other life needs," Pearlman said.
You can read more about this inventive way the astronauts ensured their families would be protected from NPR, which covered the story last year. Currently, one of the envelopes signed by Neil is worth about $30,000--and the astronauts originally signed tens of thousands of them!  Personally, I'm just glad they weren't needed :)

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This post is a part of the month-long celebration of NASA I'm hosting on my blog. In order to encourage people to celebrate NASA, I'm also hosting a giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive all the books in the recent Breathless Reads tour, as well as ARCs of two anthologies and a signed Breathless Reads poster:


As well as swag from NASA, courtesy of Kate @ Ex Libris:

To celebrate NASA creatively: you could blog about why you like NASA, you could reach out to an astronaut for an interview, you could make space fan art, you could sing a song about NASA, you do a vlog, you make a list of all the ways NASA rocks...any of this counts! Just celebrate NASA in some awesome way, post it online, and include the link in the Rafflecopter. I even set that part of the entry open for multiple entries, so you could blog and vlog and Facebook and tumblr and Pinterest about NASA and they all count. The only requirements: post a link back to this contest, and put the full URL of the site in the Rafflecopter. Full details here.

To enter: be sure to read the full rules and terms of the contest here. Then fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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