Saturday, January 26, 2008

1953 Series A Jeffferson Flown with John Glenn on Friendship 7

This $2 bill, serial number A60730193, accompanied Lt. Col. John Glenn on the historic, first manned orbital flight of the US space program aboard the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. The spacecraft, and the bills onboard, made 3 full orbits, making John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth -- and spent a full 4 hours and 56 minutes, before spashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. Together, they flew 75,679 miles and reaching a maximum velocity of 17,526 miles per hour! This bill is hand signed by Lt. Col. Glenn, his backup pilot, and mission Capcomm and fellow Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter, and Joe Trammel, the launch crew member who placed the bill in the capsule and wrote "Good Luck, John" on it. The bill is further flight certified on a parchment certificate, also hand signed by Glenn and Carpenter, and notarized May 9th, 1962, as having flown on the mission. This bill, along with other $1 bills and a few $2 bills, are some of the earliest known currency to ever fly into space. The flight of these bills caused a bit of a stir in the press and among Congressmen, who expressed fear that "such articles" might jam the delicate electronic equipment aboard the ship. In press reports at the time, one writer termed the bills as "contraband cargo of souvenir dollars", and an unnamed space agency officially called their flight on the craft "foolish business." When Glenn testified in front of the House Space Committee, he claimed at the time to only know of one $1 bill to have flown, wrapped in a wire bundle behind the control panel. But a NASA spokesperson is later quoted as reporting that some 200 bills (mostly $1 bills) were hidden aboard Glenn's spacecraft by launch crew personnel. Further research at the John Glenn Achives, however, has turned up a memo dated March 9th, 1962, written by Charles L. Buckley, Jr., of the NASA Security Office. According to Mr. Buckley's memo, "approximately $52 to $56 or a total of 32 bills of one and two dollar denominations were place aboard the capsule by a McDonnell Aircraft employee..." So the universe of flown bills from this mission are extremely limited to just 32 bills. According to Same Beddingfield, Kenndy Space Center employee number 4, and the engineer responsible for the weight and balance of the Friendship 7 capsule, this was the first flight in US manned spaceflight history to carry a $2 bill, and the majority of bills flown were of the $1 variety on this flight. (For more on Sam, please see the post below.) An amazing bill and one of the very, very few surviving examples of flown $2 bills from THE VERY FIRST FLIGHT into space for a Jefferson. I'm proud to have this historic flown bill as a part of the Jefferson-in-Space Museum!

First mission with a $2 bill aboard? Friendship 7

While down at Kennedy Space Center for the 2009 Astronaut Scholarship Apollo 12 40th Anniversary dinner, I made the treck over to the Space Walk Hall of Fame in Titusville (a wonderful, but often ignored gem of a private museum). I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Beddingfield -- KSC employee #4, who worked at NASA from Mercury through to the Shuttle program, being the Shuttle program's first employee, and retiring as the program's Deputy Director. During Mercury, Sam was responsible for overseeing the weight and balance of the spacecraft. I spoke with him about flown currency -- and the Glenn bill from Joe Tramel. He remembered Joe very clearly, and told me that the $2 bills were the rarer of bills flown on early spacecraft. In fact, he told me, only 3 one dollar bills flew on the first Mercury flight with Alan Shepard. They, too, were autographed. He owns one of the three. No $2 bills flew on that flight. This year, I was at the Kansas Cosmosphere, and was shown the surviving two flown one dollar bills from that flight: no $2 bills survived. So the Glenn $2 bills are the first exemplars of $2 bills ever flown in space aboard a manned US space craft.

Joe Trammel - The Man Responsible for This Flown Jefferson

Joe Trammel worked for McDonnel Aircraft on the Mercury spacecraft, and his signature is on this particular flown $2 bill. As it happens, Joe is the one responsible for the flying of this particular Jefferson aboard Friendship 7. The video below is from KETC, LIVING ST. LOUIS Producer Jim Kirchherr, who attended a reunion of the McDonnel Aircraft crew that built the Mercury Capsule. The reunion has been organized by the wife of Joe Trammel because he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and planned the reunion to see his old teammates and look back on the times they spent together. This video is one of the most moving explorations of these critical ground support personnel....and it also tells the story, right in the middle of it, of the flown currency on John Glenn's historic flight, and Joe's role in cataloging them. An amazing, and moving tribute!

Official NASA Memo About Glenn Flown Currency

I received a copy of a March 9, 1962 NASA memo from the John Glenn Archives that gives insightful information not only on the bills flown on Glenn's flight, but the formation of the tradition of flying bills on the early Mercury flights. This memo, which was sent to me by Jeff Thomas, archivist of the John Glenn Archives at Ohio State University, is located in the John Glenn archives, Non-Senate Papers sub-roup, NASA series, Mercury 7 sub-series, box 66, folder 7. It was written by Charles L. Buckley, Jr., NASA Security Officer, Atlantic Missle Range, stationed at the Launch Operations Directorate, Cocoa Beach, Florida, and sent to Lloyd Blankenbaker, Director of Security, at NASA in Washington. The memo included newspaper clipings from the Associated Press and the UPI, all of which discussed the issue of bills being carried into space in his capsule, and concerns by Senate officials that this would cause a hazard. The memo copies R. R. Gilruth, W.C. Williams, G.M. Preston, Col J.C. Powers, Deke Slayton, and Glenn himself.

The memo states, in full:

"This is a report based on recent news releases similar to those attached and distributed by the Associated Press and UPI. The report concerns money placed aboard Col. Glenn's capsule just prior to the February 20th flight.

Investigation has revealed that two bundles of bills having a total value of approximately $52 to $56 or a total of 32 bills of one and two dollar denomination were placed aboard the capsule by a McDonnell Aircraft employee under the direction of the McDonnell Launch Pad Foreman and approved by the McDonnell Pad Leader and NASA Inspectors. The bills belonged to both NASA and McDonnell employees who were assigned to work on the launch pad and capsule. The money was placed in the capsule at 10:30 pm, February 19th during the early part of the final countdown. It was secured in thermofit tubing which was attached to a wire bundle (group of wires) by nylon cord and then low temperature heat was applied. The heat shrunk the tubing, making it tight and fast to the wire bundle. This method secured it in a manner safe for flight. In fact, it was more secure than some of the necessary equipment the Astronaut took with him. One bundle was located on the main trunk line and the other attached to a wire bundle under the head rest. There was absolutely no danger of "jamming delicate equipment" as stated in the news articles. There was no danger of a conflagration due to external heat since the money was within the internal capsule atmosphere. The money was as clean as the outside of the Astronaut's suit or the typed flight instructions on the instrument panel. NASA inspectors verified and approved the installation.

Every capsule, with the exception of "Capsule 8-A" has carried money installed in approximately the same manner. Alan Shepard's capsule for MR-3 flight carried an American flag, which has been presented to a local elementary school. Several officials questioned mentioned that they were aware of the tradition, and indeed, that is what the action has become. They stated that "it's just as American as apple pie." The people closely associated with the Astronauts and the capsule have a warm and tender feeling that is difficult to understand for outsiders and are justly proud of their work. The money is tangible evidence that they have been close to the Astronaut and capsule and affords them a memento similar to those kept by World War II veterans, which were called "short snorters."

The money was exstracted on February 21st at approximately 5:00 pm after the capsule was returned to Cape Canaveral for examination. Since that time, it has been kept intact and at the present time it is in the Astronaut Quarters, Hanger S, where it awaits Col. Glenn's signature. The dollar bill shown to the press by Col. Powers was not aboard the capsule and was given to him for autographs by a man who failed to get his dollar aboard the capsule before flight.

Although this procedure has become tradition, it was confined to those workers closely associated with installation and inspection of the capsule and with the knowledge of NASA and McDonnell officials."

A great memo, that not only establishes the tradition of carry the bills being tied to the Short Snorter tradition, but also the exact chain of custody and provenance of these bills until they were signed and notarized by Glenn post flight. A great memo now in the Jefferson-in-Space Museum archives. Many thanks to the Ohio State University John Glenn Archives archivist Jeff Thomas (what an appropriate last name!) for providing me with a copy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

1917 Jefferson Carried Aboard Mercury 9

This large paper US $2 note was flown by Colonel Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper Jr. within the pocket of his flight suit aboard Mercury capsule Faith 7, the last flight of the Mercury Program, and the longest US manned flight at that time. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 15, 1963, Tom and Gordo flew 22.5 orbits around the Earth (at an altitude of 165.9 by 100.3 statue miles) during an elapsed mission time of 34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds. Together, they travelled 546,167 miles at a speed of 17,547 miles per hour. If you click on the scanned image, you will see that it was folded into 8ths so that Cooper could fit it snuggly into his flight suit. The bill is dated 1917, carries the serial number D92207287A, and bares Cooper's hand signed, flight certification to the lower right. According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, this particular bill was one of over 146.4 million printed between January 25, 1922, and September 30, 1927. It is the only $2 bill known to have flown on this mission, as it was a singular and personal memento taken by Cooper for himself. (He also carried a $1 silver certificate as well in a similar fashion, so George was along for the ride to keep Tom company!) Given the availablity of more modern design Jeffersons at the time of the flight -- for example, the 1953 Series A bill flown on the Glenn flight -- I wonder what compelled Cooper to take this particular bill with him. Was the early 1917 date of significance to him? Was it a bill that was given to him by someone special? Was it a lucky charm -- since he kept it in his suit pocket, instead of stowed away in the capsule? And why a $2 bill?My personal belief is that Gordo's mission was scheduled for and achieved 22 orbits, the longest spaceflight at that time, and so he took a $2 bill and kept it with him on his person as a personal talisman and goodluck charm for the success of the mission with a double-2 goal on orbits. Since Colonel Cooper has passed away, we probably will never know the answer for sure. But one thing remains for sure. It is one of the more unusual and unique Jeffersons to have ever orbited the Earth during the Mercury program.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

MA-9 Launch, Orbit and Recovery Photos

All with this very special $2 Jefferson tucked safely in Gordo's suit pocket!

Of course Gordon Cooper and the rest of the Mercury astronauts were immortalized in the book and film The Right Stuff. Click below on the movie trailer link to get a sense of the historic importance of Gordo's flight and the mercury program. And watch the full movie sometime, as the flight of Mercury 9, Gordon Cooper (and of course Tom) play a critical role at the end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cooper's Handwritten Flight Certification

Along with the note, which I purchased at auction from the Cooper Estate, I also received the envelope in which the note was stored. On the envelope, Cooper had written: "This old 1917 issue $2 bill was flown by me in my flight suit pocket on MA9." It is wonderful to have hand-written flight certification on the bill itself, and on the envelope that held the bill...but to also know that the bill was not only on board the spacecraft, but was also on Cooper's person during the entire length of the flight is very unique and adds to the historic importance of this bill.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1963 Series C Flown on Gemini 3

This Jefferson flew on the first manned flight of the Gemini space program -- aboard the unsinkable Molly Brown with Gus Grissom and John Young on March 23, 1965. During this 4 hour and 52 minute flight, Tom made 3 orbits of the earth, and traveled over 80,000 miles after reaching an altitude of over 121 miles above the Earth. This bill is a 1953 Series C Jefferson, with serial number A77446053A. It is one of only 50 $2 bills to accompany the crew aboard this historic flight.

Monday, January 21, 2008

GT-3: Countdown, Launch, Orbit, Recovery

The historic flight of Gemini 3 has the distinction of being America's first two-manned flight, Tom's presence aboard excluded...and check out the video of the launch, splashdown, and recovery of this mission. It is a short clip, but you can see Gus' face as he's being hoisted out of the ocean.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

John Young holding the flown Jefferson

In late September, 2008, retired astronaut John Young conducted a private signing at Novaspace Galleries in Arizona for space memorabilia collectors. He graciously agreed to pose with the flown Jefferson from his mission, which bares his signature from the period. It was a rare opportunity to orchestrate this reunion between John Young and this "stow away" extra passenger on Gemini 3!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

GT-3 Flown Flight Certification

The Gemini 3 flown $2 bills (along with a set of flown $1 bills) are some of the most famous, and well documented flown paper currency. Russ Still documented their flight - and story - in his wonderful Relics of the Space Race book. As the story goes, three members of the McDonnell Douglas launch crew assembled 50 $2 bills and 41 $1 bills and stowed them inside the capsule with Gus Grissom's permission. The bills were stuffed behind the instrument panel on the right side. This gave Gus Grissom the opportunity to execute one of the great space race Gotcha's of all time. He had his secretary find all the play money she could. He secretly took it with him on the flight, and during orbit, switched out the real money with the play money. Upon return, when the launch crew went into the capsule to recover the flown currency, they found the play money instead. The guys never said a word. Grissom later called the guys to explain how "funny things can happen in space" and then hung up. Later, the guys received a package from Grissom -- inside were all the flown bills, signed and flight certified by both crew members. Later, Don Wagner designed the above certificates to record the flight status of each bill, and they, too, were signed by the crew.

Friday, January 18, 2008

1963 Series $2 bill flown on GT-4

On June 3, 1965, this 1963 Jefferson, with the serial number A07690488A, lifted off with the crew of Jim McDivitt and Ed White on the second manned Gemini flight. This historic flight witnessed America's first space walk by White -- making this bill (and the other three aboard the flight) the first to be exposed to the pure vacuum of space upon the opening of the Gemini capsule for the 22 minute EVA. In all, this bill made 62 orbits and travled 1,728,486 miles before returning to Earth June 7, 1965, after more than 4 days in space. This bill remained a part of astronaut McDivitt's private collection until it was acquired by me in early 2008. Astronaut McDivitt has hand signed and flight certified this bill in his signature green ink.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

GT-4 Provenance Certificate

This hand signed, flight certification certificate establishes the provenance of this flown bill as having come directly from Jim McDivitt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ed White's Historic Space Walk - and Tom was there!

One of my favorite images of Ed White's historic space walk -- you can almost reach out and touch him. Jim McDivitt took this picture, from the open hatch of their Gemini capsule. If you look closely enough at Ed's visor, you can see the refelction of their ship. An amazing shot. And Tom was along for the ride!

Watch a video of the historic launch and EVA -- with audio starting a few seconds into this clip with the launch! Just click on the video below, and turn up your volume.

Monday, January 14, 2008

1953 Series B Goes to the Moon Aboard Apollo 15

This 1953 Series B bill flew together with the crew of Apollo 15 on the ninth manned mission of the Apollo program, and the fourth mission to land man on the moon. Tom went on what was the first of the "J" missions -- long duration stays on the moon with a greater focus on science than had been possible on previous missions. This was also the first mission with the LRV, or Lunar Rover Vehicle (also known as the moon car). Tom left Earth with the crew (Dave Scott, mission Commander; Jim Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot; and Al Worden, Command Module Pilot) on July 26, 1971. He remained in lunar orbit with Al Worden, while Dave Scott and Jim Irwin ventured down to the lunar surface on July 26, 1971. (Dave and Jim took some $2 bills down to the lunar surface with them as well; sadly, those bills were forgotten on the lunar surface. Who knows? If mankind ever returns to the moon, someone could give those Toms a lift back home!)Lunar-orbit-Tom and Al spent over 66 hours and 54 minutes alone in the Command Module, circling the moon. When the two moonwalkers returned, Tom and the crew headed home, landing in the Pacific Ocean on August 7, 1971, after over 295 hours in space, and after spending a total of 145 hours in lunar orbit! This bill, serial number A70489989A, is surely one well traveled Tom! Upon return the crew signed the backs of each of the 49 such flown bills to verify their flight status.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Apollo 15: Launch, Orbit, Earthrise, & Return

It is amazing to think that this $2 bill experienced the roar and thunder of launch into that Silent Sea of space aboard the great and mighty Saturn V rocket! And to get a true sense of the mission, click on the video link below. It is about 9 minutes - and serves as a nice overview of the mission. Don't forget to turn up your volume!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apollo 15 Flown Flight Certification

The crew of Apollo 15 not only signed the backside of the flown $2 bills, but they also had very attractive flight certification parchments made, detailing the flight status of each bill by serial number. The crew then authentically signed each certificate.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Al Worden & Dave Scott With the Moon Flown Jefferson

I was able to reunite the moon flown Jefferson with the two surviving members of Apollo 15 at the Astronaut Scholarship Fund Autograph Show at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November of 2008. In the top photo, Tom is pictured with Al Worden, the Command Module Pilot that orbited the moon with the bill, while Commander Dave Scott, pictured next, walked the surface of the moon with the late Jim Irwin.