Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Launching Apollo

I recently acquired three control and indicator panels that were in the Firing Rooms of the Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center during the Apollo era.

Two of these panels are for the S-IB, the first stage of the rocket that was used to launch Apollo 7, the Skylab crews, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). The panel at the top of this entry is the "S-IB Networks" control panel. It monitored the state of the electrical power transfer between the various stages of the Saturn rocket. Interestingly, this panel also includes switches for simulation as well as ignition. The stickers on the gauges at the top of the panel indicate its certification for use with the ASTP.

The panel at left is an "S-IB Operations" panel. It is composed strictly of indicator lights, but it has some very interesting ones, including "IGNITION," "ALL ENGINES RUNNING," and "LIFTOFF." I have already begun cleaning the plastic inserts over the indicator lights, getting rid of 40 years of accumulated gunk.

The third panel is for the S-IC, the first stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched the missions to the Moon, as well as Apollo 9 and the Skylab orbital workshop. This "S-IC Control and Purge" panel dealt with venting the oxygen that boiled off from the LOX tanks in the S-IC after the initial fueling of the vehicle several hours before liftoff.

When I was a kid, I used the top of a washing machine as a control panel and view screen when I played "Star Trek" with my friends. (The timer knob and start button were the only switches available, and we would open the lid to expose the 'view screen' - cutout pictures of the Enterprise and other vessels!) I'm tremendously excited about bringing these actual launch control panels into my life, as they were critical parts of the ground support equipment that made the Apollo program possible. It's quite a step up from the top of a washing machine!!

I'll be updating this blog regularly with my progress in researching and restoring these panels. Stay tuned.