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  Closest persons to a Saturn V launch (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Closest persons to a Saturn V launch
Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-13-2019 01:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Besides the VIP viewing grandstands located three miles from Launch Complex 39, does anyone know who were the closest people to witness a Saturn V launch?

I've heard that the sound waves could actually kill someone if they were standing out in the open right next to the pad. Does anyone know much about the "fallback area" and how close people actually were?

jklier
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posted 02-14-2019 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jklier   Click Here to Email jklier     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There were some forward observers in a bunker fairly close to the pad. They were observing through periscopes if I remember correctly. Their job was to look for any anomalies during ignition that would need an abort call.

Here's the section from Countdown to a Moon Launch.

Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-14-2019 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the excerpt from the book. So, it sounds like they had three pairs of engineers, six men total volunteer to observe the launch about one mile away from LC-39 inside mosquito and rattlesnake infested shelters! If you asked any of us today if we would have done it... I'm sure a lot of us would probably still say yes.

jklier
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posted 02-14-2019 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jklier   Click Here to Email jklier     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Heck yeah I would! I've had my fill of close encounters with rattlers but I'd fight one right now for a chance to watch an Apollo launch from that spot. In fact I'd fight one for a chance at an Apollo launch from any distance.

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-14-2019 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The flight crews...

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-14-2019 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During a manned Apollo/Saturn V launch, there had been an astronaut fire-rescue crew stationed at the outskirts of Pad 39. They would be the closest to the launch vehicle during an actual liftoff.

The special rescue team, located about half a mile away from a Saturn V, would be in an emergency standby support role in the event of a launch vehicle or pad fire, explosion, or requiring another emergency condition in getting the flight crew off the vehicle into a safe area.

The 14-man team would use three armored-tank like vehicles that weighed 40,000 pounds each. Top speed of each M-113 vehicle could attain 45 miles per hour.

They had been stationed at the end of the slide wire area, behind a mound of earth, in the first fallback area west of the launch pad.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-14-2019 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was usually stated, loosely, that privileged viewers of a Saturn V launch (families, VIPs, press) were "three and a half miles away."

When I saw the Apollo-Soyuz launch in 1975 I was with a tour-group viewing from a location beside what I believe was called "NASA Parkway South" fairly close to where the Saturn V Center is now located.

I always told people that I was viewing the launch from closer to Pad 39B than the press, because the press-site was optimized for Pad 39A, but it was difficult to be precise.

I've looked at this on Google Earth, using the measuring facility. I'm not quite sure where the VIP viewing site was located, but using old photos of the Apollo 11 launch, I measure the distance to the Saturn V at approx. 17,250 feet or 3.26 miles.

Neither am I quite sure where my viewing point was in 1975, but using my photographs (and Google Earth) I estimate a distance to the Saturn 1B of 17,750 feet or 3.36 miles.

I also measure the distance from the estimated press site location to the Saturn 1B on Pad 39B as 18,450 feet or 3.49 miles.

That tells me I was right that I was closer to Pad 39B than the press and others close to the turning-basin; and it seems those watchers were indeed "about three and a half miles" from the rocket, at least for that launch.

LM-12
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posted 02-14-2019 09:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
They had been stationed at the end of the slide wire area, behind a mound of earth, in the first fallback area west of the launch pad.
Photo 69-H-417 shows the Apollo 9 launch from that location:
Rescue vehicle and crews stand by 1,200 feet away from launch pad as 363-foot high Apollo/Saturn V space vehicle lifts off with Apollo 9 astronauts James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-14-2019 10:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually, NASA/Kennedy Parkway South is no where near the Apollo/Saturn V Center as it now stands. The center is located on Kennedy Parkway North and not South.

The south road, I think you're referring to, is far south of the VAB and away from the turn basin/press site areas.

When viewing the ASTP launch in 1975, Blackarrow, was the VAB to the right or left side of you?

Buel
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posted 02-15-2019 01:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Buel   Click Here to Email Buel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jklier:
Heck yeah I would! I've had my fill of close encounters with rattlers but I'd fight one right now for a chance to watch an Apollo launch from that spot. In fact I'd fight one for a chance at an Apollo launch from any distance.

Loved this!!!

Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-15-2019 08:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a pair of M113 armored vehicles hiding behind a bunker as the Saturn V lifts off the pad...

jklier
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posted 02-15-2019 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jklier   Click Here to Email jklier     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do the bunkers for the forward observers still exist? I was thinking this might be one of them.

28.610530, -80.607340

Blackarrow
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posted 02-15-2019 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
Actually, NASA/Kennedy Parkway South is no where near the Apollo/Saturn V Center as it now stands. The center is located on Kennedy Parkway North and not South.

The south road, I think you're referring to, is far south of the VAB and from the turn basin/press site areas.

When viewing the ASTP launch in 1975, Blackarrow, was the VAB to the right or left side of you?


You're absolutely right, it was Parkway NORTH, with the VAB off to the right. My pictures show something a short distance in front which looks like a narrow road or a railway, and I see there is indeed a railway line on the satellite image. Beyond that there is water (Futch Cove?) and bushes. Where I was based, bushes in the distance blocked my view of the launch platform itself, but I had a clear view of the "milkstool" and of course the Saturn 1B. Not only was this point slightly closer to the rocket than the press site at the VAB, but my tour-group had a view of the rocket fully lit by the afternoon sun. Pictures from the press-site show the rocket on the pad with its right-side partly in shadow.

By the way, where IS Parkway South? I couldn't find it on the map at all. There is a junction showing Parkway North, East and West, and to the south of the junction it's still Parkway North.

Getting back to the title subject, nobody at my viewing point could have got much closer to the rocket without a long swim, probably with alligators for company! It would have been a great place to watch the launch of Apollo 10!

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-15-2019 12:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During the Apollo era, the half-dozen or so forward observers were positioned within a mile(+) radius around the pad.

The primary astronaut fire-rescue team, though, were positioned a little bit closer to a Saturn V, from within 1,200 to 2,400 feet in most, if not all, cases.

Early next week, I'll be seeing one of the original KSC fire-rescue members here at my home for a visit and I'll see if he can shed any more light/info. on the topic.

Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-15-2019 12:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Ken. It would be fantastic to get first hand testimony from someone that was up so close. Even from inside an armored vehicle it must have been quite an experience!

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-15-2019 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was the Kennedy Parkway North car-pass viewing site set up for the ASTP launch, in addition to many prior Skylab and Apollo Saturn rocket launches.

The actual site was along the Parkway North roadway that extended about 3 miles or so just north of the VAB and the Crawlerway parking area.

The site, though depending on your exact launch viewing location, is within 3.9 miles to just under 5 miles if you a draw a straight line from the road-site to the center of Pad 39B.

The Apollo/Saturn V Center, right off of Kennedy Parkway North, is just under 4 miles (3.9 miles actually) from the center of Pad B.

Press Site 39, however, is just about the exact same distance, in drawing a straight line for distances, as the Apollo/Saturn V Center is to Pad 39B. Both are right at, or just a bit under, a 4-mile straight-line distance.

The closest point from the Parkway North road site to the center point of Pad B is just under 4 miles, which is the location of the Saturn V center. Anything else either north or south of the Saturn V center would take you a bit further away, but not too much, from the second Apollo/Saturn V launch complex.

When you were witnessing the live launch of AS-510, Blackarrow, was there a lake-like lagoon in front of you? If so, this would be Banana Creek that would fit within those viewing site and launch pad distance perimeters as described.

Therefore, in most locations, the press site to the south of the VAB/LCC is almost identical in distance to Pad B than in comparison to the Kennedy Parkway North road-site within the Apollo/Saturn V Center area.

The Kennedy Parkway South highway, Blackarrow, stretches just south of the KSC Industrial Area to Gate 2 of the space center's Merritt Island entrance way. It's about 3+-maybe miles long I am guessing.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-15-2019 08:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
The Apollo/Saturn V Center, right off of Kennedy Parkway North, is just under 4 miles (3.9 miles actually) from the center of Pad B.
Ken, where are you getting your figures from? Using the Google Earth "ruler" I measure the distance from the centre of Pad 39B to the easternmost corner of the Saturn V Center to be 17,375 feet (3.29 miles). You're saying 3.9 miles. That's a pretty large discrepancy.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-15-2019 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In most cases, I have always used internal on-base KSC/CCAFS map surveys for my distance measures, however, it looks like some of my figures were recorded from an earlier study, but it had used Pad 39A and not 39B as the focal point. That would perhaps explain some differences in their recordings.

When viewing ASTP, were you further up north or south of the Kennedy Parkway North roadway? Even though there may be several hundred feet differences, there is a distinct advantage from Press Site 39, even when covering a launch from Pad B.

You can see the mobile launcher platform at the base of a Saturn rocket on Pad B from PS39, and a news media observer can have a high elevation while atop the grandstand viewing section on the press mound.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-16-2019 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken, if I had been offered the chance to watch the launch from the press-site near the VAB I would have jumped at the chance! But I think my tour group did very well getting us a position off the Parkway North. At least one other cSer who was there shares my memory of being told that "nobody was closer to the rocket" (obviously excluding the crew and the safety guys). I have looked carefully at my photos. We were standing between the Parkway North and the West Leg of the NASA Railroad, with a body of water beyond that and land beyond that. Based on the Google Earth view, that tallies with a stretch of land a little south-east of where the Saturn V Center is now located. If you go much further along the Parkway, there is no nearby water between the Parkway and Pad 39B.

I agree that being a little bit closer to the pad was really only of academic interest: it made no difference to the spectacle, although I do think from looking at various launch photos (including press photos) that we had a better viewing angle and better sun illumination, and we could see separation between the rocket and the launch-tower, and could see the swing-arms.

Basically, I'm talking-up the second-best viewing site, but it was a very, very good second best!

oly
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posted 02-16-2019 07:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
...we could see separation between the rocket and the launch-tower, and could see the swing-arms.
Wow! Being able to watch the launch from anywhere along that section of road was an amazing opportunity.

If you have photographs of the rocket on the pad, launch images, or images of infrastructure or identifiable features taken from your vantage point, it may be possible to use these to narrow down your position along the Parkway.

If you would like to share some of your images, perhaps we could help narrow down your position.

Tony Guidry
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posted 02-16-2019 08:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tony Guidry   Click Here to Email Tony Guidry     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A few years back, while visiting the American Space Museum in Titusville, I had the opportunity to speak, in depth, to one of the volunteers at the museum, a retired member of the fire/rescue team at Pad 39 during the Apollo-Saturn V days. He mentioned that he was on duty for most of the Saturn V launches and that he and his team members were stationed in an armored personnel carrier a rather short distance from the Pad during launch. (I don't recall exactly how close they were, but I want to say that It was, perhaps, only 500 to 1,000 yards.)

I recall commenting to him that the sound must have been almost unbearable at that close distance. Surprisingly, he replied that although the sound level was intense, it was not unbearable, primarily due to two factors, the first being the effectiveness of the sound suppression system at the launch pad, which absorbed much of the acoustic energy and the second factor being the fact that the launch vehicle was moving away from them rather than towards them.

He also mentioned that, during some launches, he had poked his head out of the overhead hatch of the armored vehicle to get a "live" view of the Apollo-Saturn V vehicle as it cleared the launch tower and began its ascent to space.

Now that's what I'd call a front row seat to history in the making!

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-16-2019 09:12 PM     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 Blackarrow:
Basically, I'm talking-up the second-best viewing site, but it was a very, very good second best!
Actually, I've always considered the Banana Creek Viewing site at the Apollo/Saturn V Center an ideal launch observation location for shuttle launches from Pad B. In fact, I did witness a launch from there...

My Dad had left the armed forces in 1968 after a long Air Force career and settled the family here on Merritt Island, FL, in Aug. that same year, right before Apollo 7 took flight about 2 months later. I was only 12 years old when the first manned Apollo flew.

Those first Apollo launch viewings of mine took place from different on-base space center "car pass" roadway sites. The Kennedy Parkway North roadway was for 2-3 Apollos, but they had been from 39A and not B, though.

Finally, after writing fan letters to NASA and to my local Congressional leaders in my Florida district, I was able to obtain better launch viewing passes and personal NASA invitations. Various VIP-type passes and badges were acquired within the VAB area for the later Apollos and all Skylabs. Apollo 17, by far, was the most memorable to me and for many reasons, which of course, was the only night-time launch of the mighty moon rocket.

My first news media/press credential, at last, had been allocated for ASTP in July 1975. From that point on, about 96% of all my shuttle coverage viewings had been from PS39. I've personally witnessed "live" 143 U.S. manned space shots up-close on KSC grounds from 1970-2011, and not to mention, more than 300 unmanned rocket, missile, and space vehicle firings from the Cape's press and VIP-site areas.

I did, though, on occasion view a shuttle liftoff from a nearby VIP site and arrange to get back to the press site right afterwards. That's when I did view the launch of STS-107 with my friend, legendary space promoter Al Bishop, as we had arranged a special bus tour group for that particular mission in Jan. 2003. It was at the Saturn V center, and I remember saying to Al, it had been a spectacular viewing site, even with a Pad A liftoff!

Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-17-2019 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Being that the majority of ticketed tour groups are placed on the South Causeway several miles from LC39, I feel anyone that watches from either the North Causeway or the VAB press site are very lucky.

Again Ken, I hope you have a chance to see your retired fireman friend this week because this original thread is about people that were a couple thousand feet from a Saturn V launch, not miles.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-17-2019 10:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry for not keeping on track with the original topic at hand. I honesty wasn't trying to focus on my own personal observation opportunities, but understand we're talking about those special folks that had such a super-close launch encounter.

LM-12
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posted 02-17-2019 11:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a photo of Jules Bergman at the slide wire area with Apollo 9 on the pad in the background.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-17-2019 12:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
Sorry for not keeping on track with the original topic at hand.
Apology absolutely unnecessary - I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about all the launches you saw. If I had lived in Florida I would have been trying to see that many. As it is, living on the other side of the Atlantic, I'm delighted that I got a chance to see a Saturn launch and a shuttle launch: 2 for 2 in beautiful weather conditions.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-17-2019 12:26 PM     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 LM-12:
Here is a photo of Jules Bergman...
Hey, I just located in my photo files a series of photos of Jules Bergman on the "astronaut slide wire," however, it's not at Launch Complex 39, but from Gemini/Titan's Pad 19 in 1966! The slide wire concept does indeed go back to earlier astronaut emergency-egress pad operations. Perhaps if there is any interest in seeing them, some can be posted here.

Cozmosis22
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posted 02-17-2019 02:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tony Guidry:
I don't recall exactly how close they were, but I want to say that it was, perhaps, only 500 to 1,000 yards.
Think that those M-113 APCs that KSCFD used were stationed outside the pad perimeter. If so, 900 yards beyond that fence would put them about a mile from the actual launch tower. Yeah, that's close alright.

Photo from another thread posted by Bob M.:

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-17-2019 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, the carrier vehicle is outside the pad's perimeter fence. This was M-113/Hard Top One's astronaut rescue vehicle and team (I think Unit #HE-704-080) on station at A/B 4, just under a mile from the shuttle on Pad B, during the launch of STS-26/Discovery in Sept. 1988. I think the photo seen is one that had been autographed by one of the 12-member astronaut pad rescue teams that Bob had gotten from me long ago.

LM-12
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posted 02-17-2019 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The AS-504 countdown chart shows "clear closeout crew back to MSS parksite" at T-55 minutes before launch. So maybe they saw the launch from that location.

LM-12
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posted 02-17-2019 08:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
LIFE magazine has this impressive photo of the Apollo 11 launch being observed from the slide wire bunker area.

capcomespace
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posted 02-18-2019 01:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capcomespace   Click Here to Email capcomespace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anybody can locate the bunker fairly close to the pad on Google Earth?

This bunker are always in use for shuttle?

jklier
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posted 02-18-2019 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jklier   Click Here to Email jklier     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the link I posted above there were three bunkers per pad.

I had posted these coordinates as a possible location for one. There appear to be other similar locations to this around the pad.

28.610530, -80.607340

Ben
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posted 02-18-2019 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ben   Click Here to Email Ben     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The slidewire area and bunker in place for shuttle was at this location.

I am not sure if it ever moved; looking at the LIFE photo above, it appears it may have been slightly north of this spot, but not as far as the other mound/oxygen tank mentioned in the coordinates in the previous post.

LM-12
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posted 02-18-2019 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to clarify, the Apollo-era slide wire landing area and bunker was located outside the pad perimeter. The shuttle-era slide wire landing area and bunker was located inside the pad perimeter.

Space Cadet Carl
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posted 02-18-2019 06:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM-12:
LIFE magazine has this impressive photo of the Apollo 11 launch being observed from the slide wire bunker area.
Thanks, LM-12 for discovering a much sharper and color version of the crude copy photo I posted earlier in the thread. Even from inside those armored vehicles the vibration must have been unbelievable.

LM-12
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posted 02-18-2019 06:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think that your black and white image is a cropped version of Apollo 9 photo number 69-H-417.

oly
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posted 02-19-2019 12:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for oly   Click Here to Email oly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LM-12:
The Apollo-era slide wire landing area and bunker was located outside the pad perimeter. The shuttle-era slide wire landing area and bunker was located inside the pad perimeter.
Are there any detailed images of the Apollo slide wire tension winch at the base of the slide wire, and any detailed images of the path from the slide wire to the bunker, should the crew not be able to reach the personnel carriers?

Ken Havekotte
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posted 02-19-2019 04:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Apollo-era slide wire landing area and bunker wasn't outside the pad perimeter fence, but just inside the fence area northwest from the launch pad complex.

LM-12
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posted 02-19-2019 07:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This 1976 aerial photo of Pad 39A shows the Apollo-era slide wire landing area at right above the LOX facility. The landing area and nearby bunker sure looks like it is located outside the pad perimeter road and fence to me.


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