Thursday, November 24, 2005

Liberty Bell 7 Circuit Card

These next two photographs are of a hand wired circuit card retrieved from the Liberty Bell 7 capsule after it was recovered from the ocean in 1999. Since most of the people who will read this know the story, I won't go into it here. I do recommend to anybody who is interested in the story to pickup "Lost Spacecraft, The Search for Liberty Bell 7" by Curt Newport.

In 2004, I was able to collect the circuit card you see here directly from Curt. The artifact measures 4" x 8". Curt was gifted several pieces of the capsule that could not be restored during the restoration of the capsule at the Kansas Cosmosphere. Although this is not directly from the Apollo program, this artifact is part of the race to the Moon and, more importantly, I like it, so that is why it is on this blog.

By looking closely at the front and back of the circuit card, the wire bundles are all handmade, wrapped and attached to various points on the card that contain resistors and capacitors. Looking even more closely at the front of the card in the first photograph, the damage caused by the pressure and contact with the seawater for 38 years is very evident. One of the capacitors is crushed by pressures that are known to be approximately 6,000 psi at 16,000 feet below sea level. Rust and corrosion are evident too.

In 2005, I drove down to New Jersey to meet with Curt Newport, the expedition leader of the Liberty Bell 7 recovery effort and author of "Lost Spacecraft" and photograph him with the card. The above photograph also shows a preliminary painting showing the moment the ROV shined it's lights on the Liberty Bell 7 at the bottom of the ocean. The study was used to create a painting commissioned and owned by Curt entitled "Moment of Discovery." You can also see a copy of Curt's book, "Lost Spacecraft" in the photograph too.

While I was in New Jersey with Curt, a gentleman and his family came up to meet Curt. The man was a retired engineer who worked for Bendix during the time that the company was a contractor providing components for the Mercury spacecraft being built at McDonnell. Curt pulled out the card for the engineer and he proceeded to point out how the cards were made and some of the electrical components on it. At that point, I inquired if he could located the position of the circuit card in the capsule. He said that if he had the capsule schematics, then it was possible. I had brought a Mercury MA-9 Flight Director Manual containing all the hand drawn capsule schematics. Curt and this engineer poured over the schematics and actually located the position of the card in the spacecraft. It was part of the guidance system attached to the Reaction Control System (capsule thrusters).

The Liberty Bell 7 story fascinates me as its combines two of avocations that I enjoy, wreck diving and space artifact collecting. Where else can you find an artifact that flew above Earth's atmosphere and sunk to the bottom of Earth's ocean in a matter of hours? No other recovered manned spacecraft can make that claim.