Press Release

Apollo Launch Tower Campaign Has Kicked Into High Gear

By SpaceRef Editor
February 13, 2004
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Apollo Launch Tower Campaign Has Kicked Into High Gear

With 4300 signatures on the “Save The LUT” petition on Wednesday, and media coverage accelerating, the Space Restoration Society will seek to forestall the planned demolition of the historic Apollo Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) now in storage at the Kennedy Space Center.  It was slated for the scrap yard with work to begin last week, but an 11th-hour “stay of execution” was obtained.  “In just seven days, we’ve been in contact with potential donors and raised awareness, but we need to persuade NASA to hold off on the planned disposal to give us time to bring our campaign to fruition,” said Ross Tierney of the Society.  LUT disposal work may yet begin as early as Thursday or Friday, NASA has told the group.

The “Save The LUT” team has banded together from around the world over recent months to seek to preserve the historic tower from which Neil Armstrong and crew launched to the Moon.  “From the Ground Up” is the team’s motto, chosen from JFK’s witty remarks when pinning NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal on Alan B. Shepard, first American in space.  But the team was surprised to find that the status of the proposed tower was far more urgent than had been believed.

Apollo Monument Theme

The Space Restoration Society proposes a new space monument for America, and a world monument for all mankind.  This Apollo Monument will rise from the Florida landscape, from the ground up, to inspire new generations of space explorers and scientists.  A world-class display will point to the heavens highlighting the achievements of the past, and show the way to the future.

LUT 1 served as the backbone for several of the greatest achievements of humanity, including the first landing on the Moon (Apollo 11).  It also launched the first mission around the Moon (Apollo 8) and first missions to America’s Skylab space station.  Later it carried the American half of the Apollo-Soyuz mission to a rendezvous with the Soviets in a show of detente – the mission which closed the Apollo Program. In the new century it will come to be known as a place of education and inspiration, and as a destination for tourists to the Kennedy Space Center area.

Educational Purpose

The Apollo Monument will serve as a destination for school children during summer months.  A tour of the LUT will provide a hands-on experience like no other, and influence children to appreciate in a new way what a good education can help them to achieve.  College students will also benefit from special tours to the LUT.  The purpose of the mobile launch concept in Apollo, structural engineering, cryogenic fluid science, and computer systems history will be among the many lessons taught using the LUT.

Inspirational Purpose

The Apollo astronauts who launched from the LUT will be invited to be the first official visitors to ride the elevator back to the White Room level.  Next, all who worked on Apollo in one form or another will be given a free invitation to come when they are able.  A giant wall at the base of the pad will permit people to leave their signatures, testifying to the fact that they made it to the top of the LUT.  The view from the top of the LUT will serve to show people what Apollo was about like no other experience possible – no museum visit or movie presentation will have the effect of walking in the astronauts’ own historic footsteps.  It will show hearty visitors the extreme bravery of the astronauts, the amazing achievement that was the booster rocket and tower, and the heights to which humanity can rise when striving for greatness.

Interpretive Features

The many levels of the LUT can each be used for educational purpose.  One idea is that beginning with level 1, each Apollo mission could be profiled:  Apollo’s 1, 7-17, Skylab 1-4, and Apollo-Soyuz.  That is a total of 26 missions that will be covered in some way on the 18 levels of the huge tower.  They will also be shown how the LUT itself worked and the roles of the pad workers.  A ride up the elevator will give visitors the experience of the Apollo astronauts as they prepared to head into space.  An observation level at the top will provide vistas over Florida and out to sea.  Visitors will be able to learn the meaning of the LUT and its place in space history.

Apollo 11 Story

The early morning humidity and heat of Merritt Island, Florida can do strange things to light waves.  The thick, salty summer air of Merritt Island has a pleasant but strange way of bending the light that bounces off of distant objects, giving those objects a surreal quality that is unforgettable to first-time visitors.

Merritt Island, located on the central eastern shore of Florida, is also a very flat place. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which sits on this spit of land, arose from the flatness during the frenetic “space boom” of the 1960s. The largest public crowds of the 1960s and 70s anywhere in the country, even larger than the huge crowd at the Woodstock festival, came to this place to watch the most unique earthly events of the decade.  This was the place where humans began the first expeditions to the moon.

Apollo 11, the first Apollo to send humans to the surface of the moon was launched from here on July 16, 1969. Long before the sun rose on that July morning, all eyes at this Moonport were focused on a distant mountain of concrete and metal. The dreams and aspirations of millions of people, alive and dead, converged on the largest and most powerful rocket ever made. The huge Saturn V was perched atop that mountain, awaiting a thunderous and brilliant launch. Yet, the mighty Saturn did not stand alone on the horizon. It was mounted atop a massive square Mobile Launch Platform, cradled snugly adjacent to the enormous tower of LUT 1.

Eight rotating service arms connected the Saturn rockets to the tower where pneumatic consoles, valve boxes, cooling units, heat exchangers and other devices performed essential tasks. An access arm acted as a bridge to the crew capsule located at the top of the rocket. Each LUT had 18 landings, or platforms, where workers and machines performed tasks.  Two elevators were available to workers and the astronauts, but during a countdown emergency a slide wire mounted to the LUT could quickly carry astronauts to safety 2400 feet away from the launch pad. Fortunately, the slide wire was never needed during the Pad 39 countdowns. A 25-ton crane and a lightning mast topped off the LUT’s open steel structure.

Each LUT was a vital component of the total spacecraft system. The mighty Saturn’s held tons of liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen (LH2) in their fuel tanks. The super cold LOX and LH2 continuously boiled away from the Saturn tankage. The LUT channeled a fresh flow of LOX and LH2 to top off the tanks during the long Apollo countdowns. The LUT also channeled electrical and vital communications connectivity for the Saturn during the countdown and months of pre-flight preparation and testing.

“It’s Alive!”

A number of witnesses have sworn that the Saturn V was more like a living being than an inanimate machine during the final hours of countdown. The rocket appeared to inhale and exhale as noisy feed lines fed oxidizer and fuel to the Saturn’s three stages and wispy clouds of evaporated rocket propellants wheezed from vents and condensed as water vapor. Engines, motors, and pneumatic devices hummed in a chorus of technology as the working components of the LUT flawlessly performed necessary “life sustaining” services for the Saturn. There was little room for error. The Saturn V held the explosive potential of a small nuclear device.

A Destination for Space Pioneers

Thousands of engineers and technical workers dedicated themselves to making the work performed by the LUT look easy.  One of these workers was a young engineer by the name of Steve Coester.  His job was to fill the liquid hydrogen tanks.  “My favorite Apollo memory was performing my final walk down of the LUT just before launching Apollo 11,” said Steve. 

We were so aware of the enormity of what we were about to do.  The MSS (Mobile Servicing Structure) had been rolled back revealing the enormous Saturn V to full view.  It was after dark and the spotlights were casting their cones of illumination on the stack. I was virtually alone on the tower as I examined every component of the LH2 (liquid hydrogen) system to be as sure as I could that “my” system would do its job.  It was just me and the Saturn V with a bright moon overhead.  I would look at the moon, then at the rocket and think, “I don’t want to be anywhere but right where I am right now.”  I was twenty-eight years old when we landed on the moon, responsible for loading 600,000 gallons of LH2 on the “moon rocket.”  The managers were in their early thirties and someone over forty was “the old man.” Exciting times!

The men and women who worked at either building LUT’s or carrying out the actual launch preparations performed on the LUT’s, gained unique and valuable experience that never left them. Former space workers who later applied their acquired NASA/space contractor knowledge and experience to non-space related professions comprise an undocumented “spin-off” benefit of space exploration. Former space systems engineer Khris McAllister has never forgotten the experience of “going to the top” of an Apollo Saturn V LUT.  McAllister, now a Management professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was sure that he could “detect the curvature of the earth” as he gazed out across the adjacent Atlantic Ocean as he stood atop the highest LUT walkway. Jim Dilworth, one of McAllister’s colleagues at the university, also worked as an engineer on the Apollo LUT’s. Dilworth was given a special commemorative coin that contained a bit of metal from one of the Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon during Project Apollo. Dilworth and McAllister agree that their experience gained with the Apollo LUT was a very special and rare blessing.

We Have Liftoff!

And so Apollo 11 and all the other space vehicles made their journeys from the LUT’s and Launch Complex 39.  A million stories and millions of pounds of thrust made it all work.  The Space Restoration Society hopes to bring the famous LUT 1 back to life, and create from it a vertical time capsule of Apollo for the entire world to view.

SpaceRef staff editor.