As most of us know, getting the crew of the stricken Apollo 13 back to earth in April 1970 required some creative thinking. Thankfully, much of the work was aided by the overall design of both spacecraft.

Good thing that lunar orbit rendezvous was picked over direct-ascent and a single monolithic spacecraft, right? Or that the explosion happened before the mission reached lunar orbit?

Some of you may not know that the Lunar Module’s early design was to use fuel cells instead of batteries. The battery design had a charging circuit so that the CSM could top off the LM batteries from the CSM.

There was no charging circuit planned from the CSM to a LM that used fuel cells. That would’ve meant that the CM could not recharge their re-entry batteries, which were drained a bit after the accident as Odyssey was being powered down in the first two hours of the accident. If one of the three batteries died out, the Command Module would not survive re-entry.

The LM’s independent propulsion and life-support systems, as well as its computer, were also critical to the crew’s survival.

So, as the crew seemed likely to make it home thanks to all the hard work on the ground, an engineer at Grumman, prime contractor of the LM, decided to blow off a little steam.

He sent an joke invoice to the prime contractors of the Command and Service Modules, North American Rockwell, for all the “roadside assistance” costs. Towing. Battery jumping. Lodging (with extra fee for additional guest).

The Grumman guy did give Rockwell a 20% discount of $88,000.

Rockwell declined the tongue-in-cheek invoice, noting that their CSM’s job has always been to tow the LM around and Rockwell hadn’t bothered to charge Grumman for that–yet.

The famous image of the towing invoice.Source unknown, but is clearly from a newspaper article.

Some documents that astronauts had to file before or after a flight were curiously genuine.

Here’s a Customs form filed in Hawaii for Apollo 11’s return. They had to declare their cargo of lunar samples, naturally.


Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 11, filed an expense report for personal costs incurred in the process of the mission. These guys were getting paid around $33,000 to -$35,000 in 1969 dollars (around $269,000 in 2017) but they rarely had time to enjoy it.

And rumor has it that hijinks about travel costs started earlier than that.

Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra, “Jolly Wally” himself, is claimed to have tried to get NASA to reimburse him for mileage accrued during his Sigma 7 flight–all seven orbits of it.

NASA is said to have responded by charging him for the cost of his Atlas launch vehicle, which he had failed to return after he used it.


(Sources: NASASpaceFlight forums, The Wayback Machine)