Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the Moon on 20 July 1969. Armstrong was the first to step onto the dusty surface, and Aldrin joined him about 20 minutes later. The next day, the astronauts rejoined Michael Collins in the orbiting command module, and they all returned to Earth safely. But it was a dangerous mission, and the astronauts had not been able to afford life insurance policies that would cover such risks. Instead, before lift-off, the astronauts had signed hundreds of first-day postal covers, knowing that these would be valuable collector's items if they didn't survive the mission. It was the best that they could do to provide for their families.
In case of disaster:
- The practice of signing postal covers as makeshift insurance policies ended with Apollo 16. Today, Apollo 11 covers fetch the highest prices, as much as $30,000 USD.
- The astronauts gave the covers to friends, who had them postmarked on significant days -- specifically, on the day of the launch and the day they landed on the Moon.
- To have value, an Apollo 11 cover needs the right postmark, a printed image of the Apollo 11 crew emblem or the lunar surface, and a letter of authenticity from one of the astronauts.