Unique flight-flown poem flown to the moon aboard Apollo 15, and later offered in the Roger Chaffee Memorial Mail Auction in 1976, to assist with the fallen astronaut’s father’s financial difficulties in keeping with a promise to his son to continue spreading the message on the importance of space travel. Complete with accompanying correspondence and associated paperwork. Archive includes:
Flight-flown printed poem entitled ‘High Flight’ by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., one page, 8.5 x 11, signed and inscribed at the top in black felt tip, “This copy was flown to the moon on flight of Apollo 15, 26 July—7 Aug 71, To Mr. Chaffee in memory of Roger who made our flight to the moon possible, Jim Irwin, Apollo 15,” and also signed in blue ballpoint at a later date, “Al Worden, Apollo 15.” The three stanza, 14-line poem begins: “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth / And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; / Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth / Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things.”
An ALS, signed “Jim Irwin,” one page, 8.5 x 11, High Flight Foundation letterhead, dated April 20, 1976. Irwin writes to author Tony Cipriano. In full: “The poem ‘High Flight’ which I carried to the moon was written by a young American serving in the RCAF, John Gillespie Magee Jr. John lost his life at the age of 19 but he captured in those few short years the inspiration of flight.”
A TLS, signed “Jim Irwin,” one page, 8.5 x 11, High Flight Foundation letterhead, dated February 25, 1976. Irwin writes to Hugh F. Kuehl, in part: “I was distressed to learn of Mr. Chaffee’s difficulty. I wonder about the commitment that he made to Roger. I am sure that Roger would not want his father to struggle to this degree to fulfill a promise. Yes, we shall pray for Mr. Chafee that he will receive God’s will for his life. I will be happy to donate a copy of the High Flight poem that I carried to the moon. I have inscribed it in an appropriate manner.”
Also included: another ALS, signed “Jim Irwin,” from 1980; a photocopied letter from Don Chaffee, sending thanks after the auction, and reads, in part: “These past nine years I have kept a promise that I made to my son Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee that I would do what I could for the Space Program and though it has been very costly to me I have never regretted my actions…I want the world to know that I very much appreciate the efforts of the International Association of Space Philatelists in helping me to carry on this program of explaining to the general public the many benefits to mankind resulting from the Space program.”; The Roger Chaffee Memorial Mail Auction catalogue sponsored by the International Association of Space Philatelists, lot #1 was the High Flight poem here offered; a photocopy of an article announcing the sale; Anthony Cipriano’s auction invoice; IASP newsletter with article by Anthony Cipriano; an unsigned 8 x 10 photo of astronaut Chaffee; retained unsigned carbons of 1976 and 1980 letters by Cipriano to Irwin; illustrated booklet about High Flight Foundation; and an April 1976 issue of “Apogee,” High Flight publication. In fine overall condition.
The original sale of the poem helped raise money to fulfill a Chaffee dream. The astronaut, who died in the Apollo 1 fire, had asked his father ‘to do all that you can to support the space program should I buy the farm.’ Poignantly, it was also quoted by President Ronald Reagan in his broadcast to the nation on the day of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster, as he concluded: ‘We will never forget them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.’ A tremendous piece of memorabilia and the only signed flight-flown lunar item to have a connection to a fallen NASA comrade. RRAuction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.