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  Apollo CM: Kapton foil removal after recovery

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Author Topic:   Apollo CM: Kapton foil removal after recovery
ozspace
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Posts: 219
From: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Registered: May 2009

posted 07-23-2013 12:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ozspace   Click Here to Email ozspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking at the post splashdown pictures on Columbia this week and I see the vehicle is mostly still covered in the Kapton foil, although looking worse for wear and tear of the mission.

It may have been covered elsewhere here, although I can't see specific information.

Can someone describe the reasoning behind its removal and processes that were undertaken to remove and save/dispose of the material?

moorouge
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Posts: 2210
From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 07-23-2013 01:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A cynic might say so that little pieces of it could be sealed in plastic and sold for inflated prices to collectors.

spaced out
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Posts: 2858
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 07-23-2013 01:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I may be wrong but I believe that large quantities were pulled off the spacecraft after recovery by just about anyone who could get close enough to the capsule to grab themselves a souvenir.

space1
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Posts: 715
From: Danville, Ohio, USA
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 07-23-2013 06:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Removal of the thermal control film after the flight was a required procedure. There may have been some souvenir hunters pitching in, but overall it was part of the post flight processing.

We have heard this film called Kapton, Mylar, foil, etc. It was actually a specially made material called GT-131 Thermal Control Coating Laminate. It was made by G. T. Schjeldahl Co. of Northfield, Minnesota. (Reference North American Aviation procedure MA0608-013, "Application of Command Module Thermal Control Coating.")

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 35966
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-23-2013 07:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've posted this before, but clearly the removal of the kapton by recovery team members as souvenirs was not planned for or authorized, as evident by an October 1969 memo written by Jim McDivitt in his capacity as the Apollo Spacecraft Program Manager:
There have been several occasions in which unauthorized removal of equipment or parts of spacecraft has been experienced. These removals have included stripping of small pieces of the kapton thermal coating and removal of the command module nameplates. These removals have occurred during the recovery and return to North American and during postflight testing.

I would like to point out to all personnel concerned that this unauthorized removal of equipment, no matter how small it may seem, constitutes a violation of our responsibility.

Also John, I have to wonder if it was part of the post-flight processing, why are there command modules in museums now with the Kapton laminate still partially attached?

SpaceAholic
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Posts: 3745
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-23-2013 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It would have been required for access, disassembly to include dump and ablator plugs associated with panel removal, not necessarily the entire flight vehicle.

Later post recovery procedures for the CM were very explicit however about protecting the heat shield (to include the ablator char surfaces) from further damage.

kosmo
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Posts: 321
From:
Registered: Sep 2001

posted 07-23-2013 08:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kosmo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of all the Apollo CMs recovered, does anyone know which one, as far as kapton foil souvenirs is concerned, would be the hardest to acquire?

space1
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Posts: 715
From: Danville, Ohio, USA
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 07-23-2013 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for space1   Click Here to Email space1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have seen some ASHURs that specifically call for removal of all of the film. I am presuming this would be true for all of the spacecraft, but maybe not.

By the way, keep in mind this isn't the registered "Kapton" brand of film. It's similar of course but technically not the same. Perhaps we should refer to it as thermal film.

GTspace
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Posts: 244
From:
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 07-23-2013 02:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GTspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

stsmithva
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Posts: 1762
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-24-2013 12:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A recent eBay sale certainly seems like a worst-case scenario of what's being discussed here:
I toured the NASA exhibit of the Apollo 11 space capsule in 1974, and picked this piece of mylar off the capsule when I got up to it. I've kept it all these years, glued to a piece of poster board in a small plastic box.
Assuming that this story is true, he's clearly stating that it was stolen. But is it true? Was Columbia one of the capsules from which Kapton foil wasn't removed right away?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 35966
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-24-2013 03:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Columbia was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1970 following a NASA-sponsored tour of American cities. It was on display in the Arts & Industries Building until 1975, when it was moved to the new National Air and Space Museum for its opening the following year.

The photos of Columbia being moved suggest it was completely devoid of thermal film in 1975: 1 | 2

While it appears the command module didn't receive its plexi covering until after it arrived in its current home, the seller's account is either mistaken or poorly worded about where he saw Columbia in 1974.

All times are CT (US)

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