Reuben A Ramkissoon Email

The ASTP Recovery Ship Covers were an outgrowth from contacts made from my 2-week September voyage aboard the USS NEW ORLEANS for the Recovery of SKYLAB II. Covers were subsequently serviced for the SKYLAB III and ASTP missions.

For the SKYLAB missions I had 2 sets of covers signed by the astronauts and the members of the various participating and support services. NASA had a full complement of operating medical laboratories--metabolic, blood, cardiovascular. etc., etc.; Communications--various press, radio and TV syndicates, NASA / NAVY Recovery helicopters for SWIM, CREW RECOVERY, PHOTO, COMMUNICATIONS, RELAY, WEATHER, and RECONNAISSANCE--all of which provided me a full complement of signatures of all personnel involved on the 2 sets of covers I provided for them. For the SKYLAB mission in which I participated as a member of the PRESS for the SU ASTROPHILE, I was invited to dinner with the Captain, R. Carius, obtaining his signature and other PRESS in attendance (3 PRESS and the Captain), as well as the high-ranking officer staff, and later the Navy Recovery Staff.

I made it a point to become acquainted with the ship's postal clerk, and visited the ship's mail room daily, servicing 2 covers from the Pearl Harbor, HI start, then each day to document the date, distance covered , and duration of the ship's course toward the planned splashdown point in the South Pacific. The Navy Clerk offered me 1 of 2 APOLLO 14 PRS CAPTAIN'S COVERs he found in one of the drawers, and a CBS Camera crew member from the Pacific NW sent me an APOLLO 11 PRS CAPTAIN'S COVER--wonderful items from truly generous people!

The various groups involved with aspects of the recovery, engaged in several (I think 6 in all) SIMEX (Simulated Exercises) as ordered by the Captain. These were dress rehearsals that were complete with the deployment of a dummy APOLLO spacecraft, that was subsequently tracked as to its 'splashdown' position, which triggered the deployment of the array of helicopters (mentioned in par. 2), coordinating the recovery. I was able to fly aboard the PHOTO helicopter, and obtain documentation of the recovery process. These SIMEX's were so realistic that on recovery day unfurled, it seemed to be just another practice session.

Beside the wavy line hand cancel, I obtained the solid obliterator line hand cancel which was not normally used for letters, but for packages.

All covers and postcards were obtained on the ship from their souvenir shop,PO or specific personnel, which I serviced myself while aboard. The PO was closed on Recovery Day as I recall.

From prior contact with Morris Beck, I was able to obtain his printed cacheted covers for the 2 SKYLAB and ASTP missions, which I dispatched to the ship addressed to the various participating groups, and obtained some truly spectacular FLOWN and SIGNED covers. For CAPTAIN'S COVERS for SKYLAB III, I sent off to the NEW ORLEANS SALES / SUPPLY OFFICER for 50 CAPTAIN'S COVERS for servicing; for SKYLAB II, I think I serviced at least 100 covers.

(Dr Reuben A Ramkissoon)

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Last modified on 12 November 2011