Thursday, November 24, 2005

Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius 3rd Edition

This is one of those pieces that does not have a direct relationship to the race to the Moon. It is the indirect relationship that makes this item so interesting. The history of Sidereus Nuncius (The Sidereal "Starry" Messenger) starts in 1609 when Galileo Galilei improved the spyglasses that were being built in Holland. Pointing his new instrument to the sky, Galileo found new sights in the heavens. Mountains on the Moon, fixed stars in the Milky Way and four moons of Jupiter revealed themselves to Galileo. Galileo wrote and published his findings in Sidereus Nuncius in 1610, which became one of the most dramatic scientific books ever published.

Galileo's discovery of mountains on the lunar surface, which had so long been traditionally thought to have a smooth surface, was pictured in his book by the use of woodcuts as pictured on the pages above. So we have the mountains on the Moon.

Galileo was also known for his scientific experiments with gravity in which he dropped two objects of different weight from a height and they hit the ground at the same time. This demonstration illustrated the effects of gravity.

How does this all relate to Apollo? David Scott commanded the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon. The Lunar Module "Falcon" landed near the Hadley Rille in the Apennine Mountains region on the lunar surface. At the end of the final EVA at his landing site on the Moon's surface, Colonel Scott paid tribute to Galileo Galilei and science, by duplicating the same experiment in an actual vacuum on the Moon. Scott dropped his geology hammer and a falcon feather and they hit the lunar surface at the same time, thus proving Galileo right.

At Burbank in 2004, I asked Colonel Scott to inscribe my 3rd edition of Sidereus Nuncius (published in 1625). He turned to the woodcut pictures of the Moon's surface in the book and wrote, "I proved Galileo right on the Moon!" He signed David Scott, Apollo 15, CDR beneath the inscription.

Sometimes unrelated pieces have something in common. The trick is to find that relationship.

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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Flown Apollo 13 Snoopy Pin

As we know one artifact leads to another. I usually try to procure artifacts that relate to each other. In 2004, I purchased the Snoopy painting. In 2005, Fred Haise put a flown Snoopy pin up at the annual Swann auction. The relationship between the two pieces made it an excellent idea to mate the two pieces together in a display, so I picked the pin up at the auction.

The pin is Snoopy's likeness in a spacesuit and helmet. Snoopy is carrying an environmental unit designed to keep the astronaut comfortable while in the suit. The pin was designed as a lapel pin and, as such, is very small at approximately 1/2 inch in length. The pin came in a plastic presentation box. The pin would be given to a NASA employee who's effort in the workplace was deemed by the astronauts as worthly enough to be awarded the a flown "Snoopy."

Fred Haise's description helps explain what Snoopy came to symbolize as a mascot for safety in the workplace and the manufacturing of manned spacecraft for NASA in the 1960's and today. It is truly an honor to an employee who is awarded the "Snoopy."

On a more personal note, recently my wife gave me a Omega Speedmaster as a birthday gift. The wristwatch is a limited edition NASA Snoopy chronometer with the spacesuited Snoopy dancing his way to the stars in full color on the backplate.