That's an interesting ethical question. At what point is it ok for someone who got paid by the government to do a job ok to make extra money because of that fact.
These days most Presidents get to write books about their time in the White House and make money. Buzz Aldrin still goes to cons and signs autographs for money.
So where does the line belong?
The point of allowing astronauts to bring personal items was to help keep their mental health stable and morale high over the course of an 8+ day journey in a very confined space under extreme stress. Having crew members thinking about how their side hustle was going to pan out when they got home would be a distraction and not in line with the goal of the personal item allocation.
Additionally, if it was left unchecked then future astronauts would have had to choose between bringing a picture of their loved ones or passing up on a financial bonus which would have led to a bad situation.
I can see why NASA cracked down on it pretty aggressively.
I've tried to make sense out of your comment but have failed. What do you exactly mean by this sentence?
While 400 stamps don't weigh a lot, they'd still cost more than $1 each to launch by my back of the envelope calculations. You're effectively footing NASA with a $500 bill to pocket $21k.
So was that wrong? They opted to take those instead of other personal items.
This might not have been a severe case, but NASA was absolutely right to come down on it hard.
There must be at least a handful of items that don't weight a lot per 1000 units that could have gone to the moon and back. I'm thinking pretty much any paper document or certificate, cash notes.
But mixed motivations can be confusing and demotivating.
It's more like your work giving you written permission for a free 1RU of space and 2 amps of power and a DIA feed described for a personal test/development/project server, you installing a personally owned 1RU server in it and doing something useful with it, and then your work trying to claim the revenue from it.
Then you increased their fuel/energy/etc costs and increased the lives of others as there are now unvetted things in space/your rack.
Some were declared; why weren't these? It is suspicious behavior. What else could have been brought on? What failures of process and policy allowed this to happen?
1. After the job is over and they retire
2. By making personal appearances or writing a book
Presidents generally don't take mementos on official state trips so they can sell them on eBay when they get back.
Also of interest are the "insurance covers" signed by Apollo 11 astronauts as a form of life insurance and mentioned in a linked Wikipedia article.
These covers didn't make it to the moon, but they flew on the shuttle and were officially sanctioned.
They are a plentiful and inexpensive piece of history - you can get them on ebay for about $20 (search for "STS-8 cover" or similar)
The article's talk page actually has a similar discussion over whether to call them stamps or covers in the title, so although they come down on your side its hardly a given.
Here's some examples of fancy covers:
Essentially they are envelopes with stamps and a marking over the stamps that prevents the envelope and stamps to be used.
Which made me realize how little I've ever used the postal services for actual letters in my life. My generation (late 80s / early 90s) must be one of the last to interact with the postal system when personally sending letters to people, rather than just parcels.
Davis Scott had handled himself superbly during his two previous flights, and Apollo 15 was in all relevant respects a huge success, most visibly so for premiering the lunar rover and bringing back the genesis rock.
Taking something personal in the space assigned for personal use is not smuggling.
> schlocky trinkets
Envelopes from space are pretty neat and evidently highly valued by the people that ended up buying them. Those people now have something that is nearly unique and very special to them. Have you personally ever created or done something as meaningful for other people?
> national significance
No doubt. But how come a government bureaucracy like NASA can't make cool memorabilia like that to give to the fans that payed for all of it but can only watch?
> international spotlight
Few people cared about Apollo 15. It's actually already legendary how hard the public interest dropped off after the first few landings.
> triumph of capitalism
It is a triumph, absolutely. Hundreds of people got something really meaningful for them that they would not have gotten otherwise. The astronauts got a well earned pay off. Humanity got artifacts that will be preserved down the ages. Nobody was hurt or exploited. Win Win Win all around
This strikes me as a weird reason to object: surely,
Getting significant financial gain could help aid morale.
I'm not in favour of astronauts using their launches to establish a for-profit souvenir business. But I'm not objecting to that on the grounds of their morale.
If they'd applied, who knows, they might have been approved. Afterward, everybody talks about how awful it was. But that was just blather.