Press Release

National Air and Space Museum Works to Save Saturn V Moon Rocket

By SpaceRef Editor
April 6, 2004
Filed under , ,
National Air and Space Museum Works to Save Saturn V Moon Rocket

It could have launched Apollo 18, but it never got off the
ground. Still, the Saturn V rocket on display at NASA’s Johnson
Space Center has long outlived its sisters that took men to the
moon between 1969 and 1972.

Now the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has begun
preservation efforts on the 363-foot launch vehicle, which
should add many more years to the rocket’s life. The Saturn V,
from the command module’s escape tower to the nozzles of the
five first-stage engines, has been on display outdoors at
Johnson Space Center in Houston since 1977. It formally became
part of the Smithsonian collection in 1978 but remained at the
Houston location.

The Saturn V needs attention: some external surfaces have broken
down and corrosion has affected internal and external
structures. Growth of mold and plants indicates excessive
moisture and poor drainage throughout the rocket, while small
animals have found shelter inside and are responsible for acidic
debris and damage.

A grant from the Save America’s Treasures program of the National
Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation
could provide $1.25 million for the project. More than half the
required dollar-for-dollar matching funds have been raised from
the private sector. Allan Needell, curator of the Air and Space
Museum’s Apollo collection, is hopeful that additional donations
will allow the Smithsonian to make full use of the Save
America’s Treasures Grant.

The Smithsonian has contracted with Conservation Solutions Inc.
(CSI), of Washington, D.C., for initial steps in preservation:
thoroughly cleaning all rocket stages; removing fluids from
tanks and lines; proposing and testing state-of-the art
techniques for corrosion removal; surface preparation and
repainting; and starting work to repair damaged components. The
initial work has already begun.

CSI also will provide a temporary temperature- and
humidity-controlled building to protect the Saturn V during the
preservation work and until a permanent indoor display site can
be provided. Ultimately the goal is to save the Saturn V and to
restore it as closely as possible to its original appearance.

The Saturn V was first used to carry humans during the Apollo 8
mission orbiting the moon in 1968. Saturn Vs were used for all
lunar landing missions and in carrying Skylab into orbit in

Of the three surviving Saturn V launch vehicles, only the
spacecraft at JSC is made entirely of rocket stages intended for
flight. Three planned moon flights, Apollo 18, 19 and 20, were

Smithsonian curators, conservators and advisors, with the help of
NASA, have been working to create a comprehensive plan to
preserve and protect the Saturn V at the Johnson Space Center
for future generations. So far they have raised sufficient funds
to complete the first phase of the preservation efforts. If the
remaining matching funds can be raised, the job is scheduled for
completion in December of this year.

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall
in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence
Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located
in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport.
Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
(Closed December 25.). Admission is free but there is a $12 fee
for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Shuttle bus service runs
between the facilities with a roundtrip ticket costing $7 (group
discounts are available).

SpaceRef staff editor.