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  Eyewitness accounts: Apollo 4 launch

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Author Topic:   Eyewitness accounts: Apollo 4 launch
Space Cadet Carl
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From: Lake Orion, Michigan
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 04-27-2010 01:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Like to know if any collectSPACE members were at Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Apollo 4 in November 1967?

I understand that Apollo 4 launched before NASA had developed any type of noise suppression or water suppression system on Pads 39A and 39B. There's eyewitness accounts stating that windows were shattered six miles from the launch pad.

Also, many of us remember Walter Cronkite's emphatic words as the CBS trailer window and ceiling started caving in on top of him.

Were any of you there?

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 04-27-2010 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More then likely the pad had some sort of water suppression system already as static firings would have pointed out the need for that (fire suppression needs at the pad alone would call for it). However, with it being the first test of the rocket and the pad, the system probably needed to be tweaked a bit, as did construction of some of the press facilities about 3.8 miles away.

Atmospherics on launch day can have a lot to do with how loud a rocket launch sounds, or what the sound waves do at liftoff.

kking
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From: Topmost, Ky. USA
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posted 04-27-2010 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kking   Click Here to Email kking     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I didn't see in person. I did setup audio recorders in front of the TV and taped NBC TV. Even they were caught by surprise. You had Frank McGee in NY and Roy Neal at KSC. I do have CBS and Walter Cronkite but the quality of that tape didn't come out good. If their is anybody out there that has a good quality tape let me know.

I did tape radio reports through out the day including a splashdown report and the entire 30 minutes of the CBS EN.

Go4Launch
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From: Seminole, Fla.
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posted 04-27-2010 07:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you search for "Apollo 4 Launch Saturn V Rocket" on YouTube there is a bit of pre-launch CBS coverage plus an audio track of Walter during liftoff. As far as windows broken six miles away, that seems unlikely; I'd like to see the source. Cronkite's window, 3.4 miles away, survived.

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 04-28-2010 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Go4Launch:
As far as windows broken six miles away, that seems unlikely; I'd like to see the source. Cronkite's window, 3.4 miles away, survived.

I still think it's plausible. Some glass is thinner and more brittle than other glass...and some glass is more susceptible to certain frequencies. Also, Cronkite was holding the glass to keep it from flexing any further, which likely helped it survive.

Go4Launch
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posted 04-28-2010 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The only windows a full six miles from Pad A, if any, would have been at LC-34; which would have been strong enough to survive Saturn 1B launches there to begin with, let alone from six miles away.

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
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posted 04-28-2010 08:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If windows were reported broken six miles away from Pad 39A, the KSC Industrial Area is just over 6.5 miles away and the Titan 3 ITL area, with many facilities and buildings, are within 4-6 miles distance.

There is also another building, about a mile north of the KSC Industrial Area, that is within the 6-mile radius when AS-501 was launched in Nov. 1967.

Even in the Launch Control Center's Firing Room 1, launch team members were covered with plaster dust that had shaken loose from the ceiling of the concrete structure.

Go4Launch
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From: Seminole, Fla.
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posted 04-28-2010 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken, you are correct; please note, however, I specifically wrote "a full six miles," not more or less, since that is the distance in question. Regardless, no-one has provided a source for the broken-windows report at that distance.

Ben
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From: Cape Canaveral, FL
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posted 04-28-2010 10:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is no way any windows were broken six miles away. Launches are not THAT loud (if windows were shattered six miles away, ear drums would be burst open at three), and the launch of Apollo 4 was no different from any other Saturn V launch. The suppression system is for the pad, it doesn't affect the sound from a distance or once the rocket has lifted off.

There are glass structures right at the pad, and they are unaffected. Sound may vibrate and rattle and shake things pretty well, but it's not the loudness that would shatter glass, it's the pitch, and you need a high pitch to do that.

Cameras, for example, survive and fire normally right at the pad. Nothing six miles away is affected.

And for the record, the press site to Pad 39A is exactly 3.0 miles.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-28-2010 11:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Go4Launch:
Cronkite's window, 3.4 miles away, survived.
From the New York Times, "Flight Success Called Major Step to Moon Landing Before '70" by John Noble Wilford, Nov. 16, 1967:
Only then did the shockwave reach the press site 16,000 feet away, traveling through the ground and the air. Staccato bursts, rapid and thunderous, shook the small wooden grandstand, rattled its corrugated iron roof and pushed in the plate glass window on the Columbia Broadcasting System's new mobile studio.

Walter Cronkite, the C.B.S. commentator, and his crew caught the window and held it in place as they continued describing the launching.

Reporters in the open could feel the pressure of the shockwave beating their faces and chests.

Engineers estimated the noise reached about 120 decibels at the press site, the equivalent of a piston-engine airplane warming up only a few feet away. The "threshold of pain" for loud noises, they said, was 135 to 140 decibels.

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 04-29-2010 05:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ben:
There is no way any windows were broken six miles away.
Having lived on the Florida Space Coast for most of my life and witnessing hundreds and hundreds of rocket firings, I have read an account or two in our local newspapers of -- yes -- a broken window or two from an actual rocket launch! Perhaps any such windows in question, though, were not the strongest or best installed. And, just maybe, such a window breaking wasn't the result of a rocket zooming overhead, as reported to be.

I do recall on many occasions though, while living in a home on central Merritt Island during the Apollo era, quite often would my windows vibrate, rattle, and shake within minutes of a rocket liftoff.

If I am lucky enough to locate any of those newspaper reportings, I'll report back here.

Colin E. Anderton
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From: Newmarket, Suffolk, England
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posted 04-29-2010 06:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colin E. Anderton   Click Here to Email Colin E. Anderton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Walter Cronkite, the C.B.S. commentator, and his crew caught the window and held it in place as they continued describing the launching.
In fact, Cronkite had commented as the vehicle rose into the sky that he and others around him were desperately holding their hands against the glass to stop it shattering.

But he told later how a guy came running in to see him after the CBS broadcast, and told him "Don't ever do that again! The glass is built to vibrate."

Go4Launch
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From: Seminole, Fla.
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posted 04-29-2010 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I stand corrected, the distance is exactly three miles. Cronkite's exact words were, "...this big glass window is shaking, we're holding it with our hands!"

The question here is is not whether any windows have ever rattled or broken; it's whether Apollo 4 broke windows as far away as six miles. No-one has provided any evidence that happened.

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
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posted 04-29-2010 08:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I stand corrected as well as I didn't realize the topic at hand was only pertaining to the 501 launch six miles away.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 04-29-2010 11:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Concerning sound suppression at the pad, water can help dampen some of the acoustics of the launch as a sound wave can bounce back and do damage to the rocket. This did happen to Columbia on STS-1 as Pad 39A had to be modified with more rainbirds to help dampen the sound loads before STS-2. As to how that helped out with sound levels away from the pad, I have no idea, although I suppose there might have been one big sound spike at ignition before the rocket left the pad. Indeed, once the rocket clears the tower, the sound level heard is going to be the same, regardless of acoustic damping at the pad.

As for being three miles away from the pad, are we sure the CBS trailer was that close? Reason I ask is if I recall correctly, the press site of today sits more like four miles away and it sits at about the same distance away as the launch control center from pads 39A and B (B is a little closer then A). The Center was placed where it was as engineering estimates figured it was just outside of range of the biggest piece of a Saturn 5 or the pad structure being hurled that far in case a rocket exploded on the pad (lighter stuff could fly further, but the LCC had blast shutters to shield it in case that happened). As such, if the press site is a bit closer, I find it as something of a twisted joke that the press would be in more danger then the controllers in their hardened bunker a couple blocks away. It seems even crazier if the news crews were allowed to witness Apollo 4's launch from an even closer range then that.

As for windows breaking at 6 miles, if it did happen, then it more then likely would have been due to the structure surrounding the window allowing it to pop out and shatter as opposed to a pressure wave directly causing the pane to shatter. Sound can be a tricky thing though as atmospheric conditions such as air density and relative humidity (and wind direction) can cause the sound to behave a little different at each rocket launch. Terrain features can also amplify or deaden sound a little as well.

Whether or not any windows got damaged by Apollo 4's launch, I have no idea. But, there have been some shuttle launches that have set off car alarms while others did nothing of the sort. The decibel level of a shuttle launch is about the same as a Saturn V. The Saturn V seems a little louder as its slower acceleration means the thing is sitting closer to the ground for longer, causing the sound waves to bounce back and fourth more.

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
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posted 04-29-2010 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jay, if you draw a straight line from the center of Pad 39A to the nearest press site structure, which will be the NASA News Center, it would be about 3.2 miles from Pad A. At the time of Apollo 4 in 1967, CBS was operating a studio trailer not too far from the current-day news center location. So 3(+) miles is a correct assumption.

Construction of a press facility at Launch Complex 39 started in 1966 and was completed right in time for the anticipated influx of journalists covering the big 501 shot. The nearest press site structure to the Saturn vehicle during Apollo 4 would be a covered grandstand that provided seats, writing counters and phones for 350 reporters. But reporters were also permitted many yards forward of the grandstand section along the turn basin waterway. Altogether NASA had accredited 510 media reps and contractor public relations personnel for the maiden launch of a Saturn V moon rocket.

Ben
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posted 04-29-2010 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jay, the press site of today is the very same that has been in use since Apollo. The clock is the same one that has been there since it was erected prior to Apollo 13 (possibly 12, Ken might verify that, but I have no photos from there of Apollo 12).

And pad A is closer (3.05 miles from the center of the MLP to the clock, 3.18 to the network buildings) than pad B (3.41 and 3.50).

The Launch Control Center is 3.15 miles to Pad A as well and 3.35 to B.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 04-30-2010 12:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the information guys. Thanks for the update on the distances as well. I recall from being there that the current press site was in the mid 3 mile range from the pad, but I didn't think it was THAT close!

Interesting how Pad 39B slightly to the north of A is a little further distant, but it gives better views of shuttle launches (and Ares 1-X) since it doesn't block the view of the orbiter on the pad with the RSS and FSS sitting in the way. Of course, that wouldn't have been a concern in the Saturn V days.

mikej
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From: Germantown, WI USA
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posted 04-30-2010 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the topic of damage caused by the Apollo 4 launch, does anyone have any information regarding the tail service masts?

The original design of the TSMs, as used on AS-500F, Apollo 4, and (apparently) Apollo 6 during its roll out used a "clam shell" design:

clam shell tail service mast

However, prior to the Apollo 6 launch the TSMs were redesigned to the more familiar "hooded" design:

hooded tail service mast

All of the TSM documentation I've found dates from before Apollo 4's launch and shows only the clam shell design. I've never read anything about the actual redesign; the only thing I've ever found related to the matter was a single sentence in the AS-501 Flight Evaluation Report

All tail service mast hoods were carried away by exhaust blast allowing the aft umbilical carriers and service lines to be damaged by engine blast and fire.
Some time ago, I received an email retelling a story wherein "Apollo 4's launch blew one of the clamshell covers off the TSM and it sailed through the air to land in the parking lot, destroying three cars in the process." Knowing about the 3-mile minimum safe distance radius, I've alway viewed this story with suspicion, doubting that there'd be any parking lot close enough to have three cars in it during a launch.

Has anyone heard about this? Or, better ye, anyone with any links to redesign documentation?

Ken Havekotte
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From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
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posted 04-30-2010 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Although the "clam-shell" type hoods had been well tested beforehand, possibly the 501 launch vibration, or some other environmental factor caused the locking mechanisms to malfunction. It was reported that the hoods on closing consequently rebounded, the F-1's exhaust blast entered and completely destroyed the ground-carrier plates.

In preparation for the next Saturn V launch (AS-502), some major changes were made. In fact, the hoods together with all of their closing mechanism and hydraulics were abolished; in their place went the simplest imaginable protection.

A lattice tower was erected on top of each TSM at the top of which was mounted a hood with a visor -- very much like a knight's armored helmet. Once the visors are raised and latched in position, while operating both TSMs, the masts swing upwards and when they have entered their respective hoods, the latches are tripped and the visors slide down over their fronts so that all is covered.

The only complication reported was that those small towers had to be made to hinge back and downwards when not in use, otherwise the Mobile Service Structure would foul them in position on the pad. Does this help any?

All times are CT (US)

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