Friday, 28 September 2012

Apollo Programme Manuals

NSB has been wondering what kind of post to write to mark recently passing the small, but perfectly formed, milestone of 100 followers on Twitter. . .

…and knew instantly that he had found what he was looking for when, whilst idly reading the Wikipedia entry for the F1 Apollo Main Rocket Engine, NSB noticed, right at the bottom of the page, a startling reference to the F1 engine operating instructions(NB : Large file).

Allegedly, up to 1975, you could take your F1 engine to Halfords for a service

A manual for the F1 main rocket engine???? On a 1-10 scale of coolness, that has got to be at least…. Eleven!

And this left NSB wondering what other Apollo documents could be found at the same archive (the NASA Technical Reports Server). A search revealed that one can get operating manuals and user guides to pretty much all of the Saturn V component vehicles. including the following (NB:Some of these are very large files) :

The Guide to the Command and Service Module gave the astronauts a basic grounding in the systems and controls of the Command and Service Module.
Interestingly, the CSM could be "drifted" in an emergency, allegeldy

And the Saturn V Flight Manual SA503 gave a very comprehenive outline to the entire launch vehicle, its initial flight profile and other information.
Just one of the control panels in the Apollo Spacecraft.
(Note the graphic equaliser for the stereo in the lower centre, allegedly.)

For the car nuts out there, it may be that the Lunar Roving Vehicle Operations Handbook may be the most interesting document.

I am genuinely lost for word for this one. . .

And then, NSB found the most interesting document of the bunch, entitled “The Apollo Spacecraft - A Chronology - Volume1 (through Nov 7 1962)”.

The document looks at the historical background to the mission, going as far back as the 1920s. One interesting snippet of information is that one H E Ross described a manned lunar mission in a paper read ot the British Interplanetary Society in 1948

And it was a surprise to read that the F1 engine thrust chamber was test fired as early as 1959, producing over 1million pounds of thrust.

By 1961, NASA was pondering what type of shape a lunar mission re-entry vehicle should be, with a “flying saucer” being one of the options, as you can see below:

A bit of a shame, coolness-wise, that they eventually chose the Blunt Body configuration

In March 1961 Kennedy submitted a budget request for1.2billion dollars, which was a lot of money at the time.

Following Gagarins orbital space flight, Kennedy admitted that “no one is more tired than I am” of seeing the US second to Russia in Space, and added that this was because the Russians had “secured these large boosters which have led to their being first in Sputnik, and led to their first putting their man in space. We are, I hope, going to be able to carry out our efforts with due regard to the problem of the life of the man involved this year. But we are behind. . . the news will be worse before it is better, and it will be some time before we catch up. “(you can read the whole, fascinating, speech here)

Only in May1961 did Kennedy make his famous speech stating that “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth”.

In 1962, a new automatic control system was tested in a X-15 aircraft flying to an altitude of 179,000ft an dpiloted by one Neil Armstrong, and the space craft configuration was becoming more defined.

Fascinating to see how the design developed

Those familiar with the history of the Apollo programme will immediately realise how fateful the decision of July1962 to use a pure oxygen atmosphere in the spacecraft was. The chronology reports that there has already been two fires and that their prevention relied on “diligent effort of spacecraft designers to be aware of the fire hazard and to exercise strict control of potential ignition sources and material selection”

Check out the NTRS to see what other interesting stuff you can find!

Related Posts
Interview with Apollo Astronaut Trainer and Geologist Prof Farouk El-Baz
Curiosity, Twitter and the British Connection
Interview - Chris Lintott and the Zooniverse

Image Sources
All images from relevant NASA reports.

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