January 6, 2012
NASA Wants Lovell’s Apollo 13 Checklist Back
Apollo 13 commander James Lovell is trying to sell a 70-page checklist from the flight that includes his handwritten calculations that played a part in bringing the spacecraft back home safely, but NASA is saying not so fast.
Heritage Auctions sold the document in November for over $388,000, which went for about 15 times its initial list price.
The checklist was used during the Apollo 13 mission by Lovell to try and calculate how the astronauts would be able to return home. The mission was aborted 200,000 miles from Earth when an oxygen tank exploded on April 13, 1970, causing another tank to fail and jeopardize the astronaut's ability to return home.
During this mission, astronaut Jack Swigert famously said "Houston, we've had a problem here".
The crew was forced to move into the lunar landing module for the return flight, after which Lovell made calculations on the checklist that were key in navigating the craft back home.
NASA contacted Lovell and Heritage to ask whether Lovell had title to the checklist.
Greg Rohan, president of the auction house, said Thursday that the sale has been suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry.
He said that the checklist is being stored in the company's vault for now.
Rohan said Lovell provided a signed affidavit that he had clear title to the ring-bound checklist.
NASA Deputy Chief Counsel Donna M. Shafer told The Associated Press (AP) that there appeared to be "nothing to indicate" that the agency had transferred ownership of the checklist to Lovell.
“Only NASA has the authority to clear NASA property for sale," the space agency told AP.
Shafer said there is a "potential risk of the items being seized by the government until title issues have been resolved."
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