Lot 43: APOLLO 13 TOWING BILL
by I.M. Chait
May 16, 2010
Beverly Hills, CA, USALive Auction
APOLLO 13 TOWING BILL
One of the great historical oddities of all time emerged during the final hours of the Apollo 13 crisis, as the LM was being powered up and reheated for final injection into Earth trajectory on April 17, 1970 - at which point it finally became possible for Grumman's engineers to believe that the crew would survive. John Hussey and his men, "slap-happy from relief and from days without sleep," prepared a "Towing Bill" for Rockwell (builders of the crippled CSM). After having hauled Rockwell's capsule and its service module back to Earth with the Lunar Module's engines, the engineers decided to charge four dollars for the first mile, one dollar each additional mile, with (among other additional surcharges) an invoice for use of the LM's jumper cable to recharge the Command Module's batteries.
The Towing Bill was typed, photocopied, passed around and recopied until, inevitably, one of the copies ended up on newscaster Walter Cronkite's desk. Grumman and NASA management - to say nothing of Rockwell management - "were not laughing," according to Hussey. For many months afterward, concerned citizens who took the joke seriously sent Grumman envelopes containing money, to help Rockwell pay the 400,000 mile Towing Bill.
This is one of the original Grumman copies, and it is also the actual copy published in Chariots for Apollo (included with this item, signed). The bill bears the original inscription - written during a time (1982) in which few recognized ("only" twelve years after Apollo 13, ten years after Cernan and Schmitt's Apollo 17 mission) that the item was so rare and significant that a future generation might consider it improper to have written notes directly on it, identifying what the Apollo item was and whence it came. Pellegrino wrote: "One of the old, original (amazing multiplying) copies of Grumman's Apollo 13 towing bill to Rockwell - Charles R. Pellegrino."