The Apollo 11 astronauts couldn't obtain life insurance. Here's what they did instead.

When the Apollo 11 astronauts prepared to walk on the moon, they suffered from a very earthly concern: money. Given how dangerous the first manned mission to the moon was, life insurance was prohibitively expensive for the three astronauts. So they had to resort to other means to prepare for the possibility of their demise.

Fortunately, astronauts did have an alternative insurance scheme in the form of their official autographs. Autograph "covers" were special envelops signed by the astronauts and postmarked on significant days. The Apollo 11 astronauts knew that if they died during their mission, their autographs would be in high demand. So the three men sat down and signed cover after cover after cover. They then gave the covers to a trusted friend who took them to the post office to be postmarked. Some of the covers were postmarked on July 16, 1969, the date of the launch; the rest were postmarked on the July 20th moon landing. This way, the Apollo astronauts could go forward assured that their families would be financially taken care of.

Even though the trio has given away plenty of autographs since their return from the moon, the covers, which occasionally appear on the market, are still coveted by collectors. Robert Pearlman, a space historian and memorabilia collector, told NPR's Planet Money that the covers can fetch as much as $30,000, although Matthew Haley, a manuscript specialist at Bonhams, said last year that the covers start in the neighborhood of $5,000 — although that may have changed with the recent passing of Armstrong.

Top image from Collectors Weekly.

What The Apollo Astronauts Did For Life Insurance [Planet Money]