Our role in the space race

Our role in the space race

Our role in the space race

A little-known gem from our historical files. What we unearthed.

In 1959, American United Life Insurance Company® (AUL) received nationwide publicity when it agreed to reinsure policies issued on the lives of the astronauts of Project Mercury. That’s the space-race project depicted in the recent hit movie, Hidden Figures.

Our company’s agreement to assume 50 percent of the risk of their lives allowed a Norfolk, Virginia, insurance firm to offer the space explorers insurance coverage of up to $20,000 at regular rates.

In a letter to that Virginia company then-AUL President Clarence Jackson wrote: “Our company is pleased to share with you in offering protection for the families of the patriotic men who have volunteered for the first space trips … whatever insurance risk may be involved, we will assume because of a desire to help and because of our faith in the American way.”

As it turns out, the federal government (prior to the first space flights) decided to insure the astronauts itself.

NASA selected seven astronauts for Project Mercury in 1959, and through 1963, the astronauts made six spaceflights during the project. Two flights reached space and came right back down. The others went into orbit and circled Earth.

The seven Mercury astronauts were (from left) Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper and Scott Carpenter.