This entry was posted on Feb 11 2010 by

“We ask you to be patient while these essentials are worked out.”

Space travel has been in the news a lot lately.  We’ll be saying goodbye to NASA’s space shuttle program later this year (a sad event for this former resident of the Space Coast), and now there is a proposal to cancel development of the Ares I rocket, the system slated to replace the shuttle and, ultimately, return Americans to the moon.  The new plan (as I understand it) will be for NASA to instead contract private companies to ferry our astronauts into space, freeing up funding for the agency to pursue loftier endeavors.  Not a bad idea in theory, but canceling our current mode of space transport—as well as future modes already under development—before another is in place will mean that, for the first time since John Glenn blasted off 48 years ago, the United States won’t have a vehicle for putting a man in orbit.  It’s a little too cart-before-the-horse for me.  Sort of like this letter, mailed to my grandfather along with his membership card for Pan Am’s “First Moon Flights” Club:

Pan Am - Moon Flight Letter

The letter isn’t dated, so I can’t be sure when it was sent, but this Los Angeles Times article claims that Pan American World Airways launched its waitlist for moon flights in the 1960s (presumably in the wake of Apollo 11).  The illustrations on the membership card feel like the ’60s, so that’s as good a guess as any.  Here’s the front:

Pan Am - Moon Flight Ticket (Front) 

and the back:

Pan Am - Moon Flight Ticket (Back)

Conflicting statistics are reported online, but as far as I can tell the the club grew to over 90,000 members, Ronald Reagan and Walter Cronkite counted among them.  At #1,463, that makes Grandpa an early bird, and I smile at the thought of him boarding his space plane while The Great Communicator and The Most Trusted Man in America wait their turns on the tarmac.

JFK called the space program the “greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”  Who can blame James Montgomery, Vice President of Sales at Pan Am, for being exuberant about joining in the venture?  Despite the promise and entrepreneurial spirit of his letter, though, Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991, and nearly two decades later we’re still without commercial space flights.  By year’s end, our astronauts will be standing in line with Grandpa, Ronnie, Walter and the rest of the 90,000, while other countries take command of the heavens. 

For how long?

(Addendum: My uncle reports that the envelope the membership card was mailed in is postmarked April 30, 1969, nearly three months prior to Apollo 11 and Armstrong’s small step.  I’m told by my mother and grandmother that Grandpa fired off his letter to Pan Am as soon as he heard about the club, so it couldn’t have been started too much earlier.)

8 Responses to ““We ask you to be patient while these essentials are worked out.””

  1. J Chris Campbell
    7:46 pm on February 12th, 2010

    Fantastic. You lucky dog, I can’t believe you have that!

  2. Cliff
    5:03 am on January 17th, 2011

    I have the same card with my name on it.My Grandmother gave it to me.Does this card hold any value?Thanks

  3. Robert Venditti
    5:42 am on January 17th, 2011

    Just the sentimental and/or historic kind.

  4. Cliff
    7:47 am on January 17th, 2011

    Thanks and I like your website,nice job.

  5. Jo Phillips
    4:40 pm on August 30th, 2012

    I have one! I actually was only 16 years old when I obtained it under my legal-maiden name of Joanne Hancock. Awesome that I held on to it all these years! And, yes like the rest I am now called grandma 🙂

  6. Harris
    12:28 am on January 6th, 2013

    The card was more likely created because of 2001. A space odyssey . The back of the card shows the Orion spaceplane from the movie . I saw the movie in December 1968 when it came out and wish I sent out a request . Pam am had an add for the club after the movie was released

  7. Jeff
    8:02 am on September 11th, 2016

    I just donated my card to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. A picture of it is now on display in their Boeing’s Milestones of Flight Hall. My number was 1043 and I made my reservation in 1969.

  8. Robert Venditti
    8:11 am on September 11th, 2016

    That’s amazing. Conde Nast Traveler magazine did a feature story on commercial space travel, and my grandfather’s card was printed in the article. It’s great to have the cards in places where people can see them.

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