Whole Object Name
Novelty Cheque Payable to Guenter Wendt
This oversized joke cheque was presented to Guenter Wendt by the crew of Gemini 12 – thinking that this was to be his last mission as Pad Leader.
Throughout the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions there was a tradition of giving gifts to Pad Leader, Guenter Wendt and his team shortly before launch. Wendt was the last face the astronauts saw before being sealed into their spacecraft. Wendt was responsible for the White Room – the small area at the end of the walkway that astronauts used to access their spacecraft. His word in the White Room was law and the astronauts trusted and respected him for doing everything possible to make their mission as safe as it reasonably could be. Wendt gave gifts to the astronauts as well as receiving them – the crew of Apollo 11 gave him a freeze tried trout, whilst he gave the crew a giant ‘Key to the Moon’.
Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin were aware that after their mission – Gemini 12 – Guenter Wendt was not planning to move onto the Apollo programme. Contractors North American Aviation had won the contract to build the Apollo Command Module, so Wendt (who worked for McDonnell Douglas at the time) was due to retire from manned spacecraft operations. With this in mind Lovell and Aldrin produced this giant gag cheque for one million Deutschemarks, playing on the popular in-joke amongst the astronauts about Wendt’s German heritage – he had served in the Luftwaffe during World War II. The date of the cheque has been changed twice, which is testament to the fact that Gemini 12 was postponed two times in the preceding days before launch. Lovell and Aldrin had to make some last minute changes to their gift.
As it happened this did not prove to be Wendt’s last mission. Following the Apollo 1 disaster (when all three crew members died after a fire spread through their Command Module during a routine test), Guenter Wendt was hired by North American Aviation. The Apollo 7 Commander, Wally Schirra, had argued strongly for Wendt to be re-appointed as Pad Leader - just as he had been for the Mercury and Gemini missions. Apollo 1 was the only manned mission throughout Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo that Wendt was not Pad Leader for.