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Help Save the Booster that Sent Apollo Spacecrafts to the Moon

A Kickstarter campaign hopest to save the only remaining booster rocket from the Apollo launches

The Apollo 17 Saturn V rocket, the last human flight to the moon, on its launch pad at dusk on November 21, 1972 (NASA/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

During the Apollo 11 mission, more than 46 years ago, two Americans first set foot on the moon. Part of what made that feat possible was the powerful Saturn V rockets that launched the spacecraft out of Earth's strongly pulling gravity. 

However, not all Saturn V’s fulfilled their mission—the final three Apollo missions were canceled. So for decades now, a booster rocket that was intended for the Apollo 19 mission has been rotting away in storage, corroding in the salty air of New Orleans. But a Mississippi museum hopes that a Kickstarter campaign can raise enough money to fund one final journey: a trip to a permanent home in Mississippi's Infinity Science Center.

For each of the 13 Apollo launches between 1967 and 1973, only the cramped command module made it back to Earth. The multiple stages of the rocket (or sections like the booster rocket that contain their own engines and fuel) were jettisoned and abandoned or burned up as they fell back to Earth—pieces of history lost.

But the kickstarter campaign hopes to preserve this remaining stage and its pivotal role as part of the Saturn V rocket system.

There are three stages for spacecraft launch explains Amy Shira Teitel for Discovery. The first stage, featured in the Kickstarter campaign, and the second stage both fell away as the rocket continued upward. Once it reached Earth's orbit, the remaining third stage fired to jettison the spacecraft to the moon and then fell away outside Earth's orbit.

The description on the Kickstarter website shows just how impressive some of the figures are for this 138 feet long, 33 feet diameter rocket booster:

The stage’s business end could produce more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust from five massive F-1 engines, four mounted on a steerable outer ring and a fifth engine rigidly fastened in the center. When ignited, the roar produced by the five engines together equaled the sound of 8 million 1960s-era hi-fi sets. 

To get an approximation of that sound, watch these test sequences where the first stage drowns out warning alarms.

The Kickstarter will fund the cost of the booster's trip from storage at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (one of the largest manufacturing plants in the world) to the Infinity Science Center in southern Mississippi. At the science center, experts plan to preserve the rocket booster and put it on display.

The booster will first need to make the trip 40 miles across waterways by barge to the Stennis Space Center, "where every Apollo rocket and every rocket that ever carried Americans into space have been tested," reports Mary Perez for Sun Herald.

Mississippi native and retired Apollo astronaut Fred Haise, is particularly excited at the prospect of this restoration. Haise was the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 13 mission and was was slated to be the flight commander for Apollo 19, the mission to which this booster belongs.

When NASA canceled the remaining Apollo missions, Haise lost his chance to return to the moon. But perhaps now a piece of that mission will return to him.

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