I promised myself to write as soon as possible about a recent experience involving NASA and its glorious past. I wanted to pay homage to the remarkable people, who conceived and realized the technology, which allowed another group of equally highly skilled and disciplined men and women, contemporary explorers of new worlds, to venture forth into Space, disregarding personal safety and common sense. I wanted to show the profound respect and feeling of awe, I took away with me, after visiting a very special installation.
Let’s begin with one single image. An image, I’ve edited over the last few days, not once, but in four different versions.
This version is called
“The Universe Beckons”
The mesmerizing image of the interior of a F-1 jet engine thrust chamber.
You’re literally looking up the badass jet of a rocket propulsion engine. Not just any jet engine, but the most powerful one in the universe, oh OK, on earth. The jets, which propelled the Saturn V rocket ships into orbit.
It houses but one single rocket ship, the legendary Saturn V.
On the other side of this harmless looking barn door, you’ll be confronted by a needle-nosed monster.
A 111 m or 363 ft tall rocket ship, laying on it’s side like a prostrate Goliath. A sleeping Saturn V.
The Launch Escape System is 10 m or 33 ft long and weighs about 3.6 metric tons. The latticework tower is welded from titanium tubing, other materials include steel, different fiberglass preparations and cork. An emergency launch is facilitated through a group of engines, the launch escape, tower jettison and pitch control motors, which allow for a quick up and sideways motion of the Command Module. The Launch Escape System is activated by several means, either directly by the mission commander, launch control or through automated feedback circuits, reading the launch pad and Saturn V pre-launch and launch values.
I don’t believe, the Launch Escape System, this elegant escape rocket, this remarkable marvel of science and technology, was ever activated in earnest. But considering the sheer volume of the liquid hydrogen & oxygen, not to mention close to 200 000 gallons of Kerosene just below their strapped-in arses, one wonders about the mindset of the astronauts in their small capsule!
A slender cylinder just below the Apollo Command Module houses the Service Module and the Lunar Module with its descent and ascent engines.
|Apollo Command Module on right, top of Lunar Modules housing on left|
The Saturn V first stage segment utilized five Kerosene powered F-1 rocket engines for lift-off. Two further stages were powered by J-2 liquid-fuel cryogenic rocket engines, which used liquid oxygen and also liquid hydrogen as a propellant.
For size comparison my friend Pat posed with a solitary rocket engine exhibit outside the Saturn V barn.
Now imaging five of these monsters clustered together.
|J-2 thrust chambers & engines|
And when you gently inch ever closer to one of these F-1 jet engine, finally …
… confronting the enormous maw of its thrust chamber,
you feel, you have entered the secret world of the Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit in a different universe altogether.
To lessen the pull into the void, we checked out varying panels and other construction details. One thing became obvious very quickly, Rosie the Riveter was a subcontractor for NASA. There must be millions of rivets in this rocket ship.
Saturn V rocket ships successfully launched all Apollo missions, despite a couple of engine trouble snafus. It was not only a giant among rockets, but a tremendously reliable one!
Our friend Carlos guided us through the rocket exhibit in a Texas barn, giving us an opportunity to witness a keystone technology, which allowed humanity a first actual foothold in the vastness of Space, the final shattering of the Aristotelian celestial spheres. Thank you so very much for an exceptional experience!
ISS Imagery Manager
Chair, ISS Imagery Working Group
Mission Integration & Operations Office