Companies offered astronauts life insurance virtually for free however their offers were declined
With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing upon us, it is worth remembering that Neil Armstrong once estimated the Apollo 11 landing mission to have about 50% chance of success.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that only a few life insurers were willing to offer competitive cover to the first astronauts travelling to the moon.
According to David Todd, head of space content at satelite launch database Seradata, some life insurance companies wanted to offer the Apollo 11 crew life insurance for next to nothing, in exchange for the publicity they would receive in return. However their offers were declined.
Instead, the Apollo 11 crew had another idea. They autographed a vast number of postal envelopes, which were stamped at the local postal office at home during each day of the mission. The value of these, which they envisioned would increase over time, would provide financial security to their family should the worst happen.
According to Todd, who is assisting with the creation of an insurance museum in London, this pseudo-insurance system continued until Apollo 16; the penultimate moon mission.
The scheme has got us wondering how insurers might provide cover for future civilian expeditions into space. Todd said he expects space travel businesses to arrange personal accident insurance via the established market, with the participants paying their own premiums.
Under such schemes the passengers are not "passengers" in the legal sense, having signed away any liability as part of the deal with the operator, they become "participants" in the flight, said Todd.
Kevin Hancock, chairman of the Society of Insurance Broking, said: "Insurance brokers would welcome the challenge of providing cover for all travellers whether they are journeying to the moon or to more earthly destinations.
"Worldwide cover is easy to achieve. Providing cover for a lunar voyage may be more difficult."
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