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Saturn V at Johnson Space Center


The One and Only Remaining "Flight Component" Saturn V 
This 1995 wide angle photo (NASA) only begins to capture just how breathtakingly large the Saturn V is. Since 2005, this Saturn V has been enclosed at this location...thankfully air-conditioned and accommodating to visitors. All complete Saturn V vehicle displays are now indoors.
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There are only four major displays of the Saturn V. They are located at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville, Alabama, Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, NASA's Michoud assembly facility just outside of New Orleans, and at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. The display at Michoud is only an S-IC stage. The displays at USSRC and KSC are representative of full Saturn V vehicles and consist of various engineering and test components never intended for flight. The vehicle on display at Johnson Space Center is the only Saturn V consisting entirely of components intended for flight.
Now that all existing Saturn V displays using NASA hardware have been moved indoors, you'll no longer get the chance to back way off and get an unobstructed view of the real thing from end to end. First to go "under cover" was the KSC vehicle, then the JSC vehicle (above) in 2005, and finally the USSRC vehicle. However, USSRC still has their awesome "upright" 1:1 model standing at their location and visible from miles away (The folks at USSRC know how to put on a show!).
Unfortunately, being a flight article means it's more delicate by the nature of its construction and the materials used in its construction (for example, the alloys used in the flight articles is very prone to corrosion). Add this to the fact that it was displayed outdoors adjacent to a salt-water body (Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico) AND that JSC is located near Houston's industrial areas and you have the perfect formula for the rapid deterioration of a space vehicle that was never intended to be stored for an extended period of time let alone spend 30-plus years outdoors. One other factor added to the rapid deterioration of the vehicle...several well intended but poorly executed tries at repainting and repairing the vehicle which, in many respects, added to the acceleration of the near demise of the vehicle.
I had the good fortune to see the arrival of the first components of the Saturn at JSC in 1977 and, having grown up within bicycling distance of the space center and continuing to live in Houston to this day, took advantage of many visits to photograph the vehicle over the years. So, herein is a selection of selected photos from the years both from my camera and the cameras of NASA that will give perspectives of an intended-for-flight Saturn V that exists of no other Saturn V on display (or Saturns that have flown, for that matter).
1970's: The Saturn Makes Its Home at JSC
1977--The S-IVB-513 on its transport parked at JSC antenna test range parking lot.
The stage arrived in near-factory-fresh condition and much as it would be if delivered to KSC for flight. Note the fabric bags over the helium spheres.
NASA Photo
1977--A rare clear view of the S-IVB thrust structure
Note the offset of the periphery of the thrust structure from the insulation-covered oxidizer tank. In flight trim, the area from the edge of the thrust structure to the aft skirt was covered with a protective fabric curtain.
NASA photo
1978--Saturn V stages onsite adjacent to the Little Joe II and Mercury Redstone displays in the future Rocket Park.
All three stages arrived at JSC by early 1978 but it would be some time before they reached their final destination about 100 yards to the south (just to the left side of the this picture)
1978--Tunnels and covers are installed on the S-II stage.
Preparation of the various stages continued over a period months in the antenna test range parking lot.
NASA Photo
1979--S-IC stage being readied for move to Rocket Park display area.
The tow-bar is being attached to the S-IC transporter in order to make the final short move to the concrete pads in at the Rocket Park.
NASA Photo
1979--The S-II stage being hoisted from its transporter
The S-II transporter, not used for the final display, is pulled beside the permanet display cradle and the S-II is being hoised.
NASA Photo
1979--CM 115A arrives onsite
The CM 115A, construction and outfitting halted after its mission was cancelled, found a home with the JSC Saturn. Here, it is temporarly stored next to the IU (lower left corner).
NASA Photo
 
1979--SM and SLA being lowered onto display cradle
The Service Module SM-115, SLA (adapter), and Instrument Unit (IU) were bolted together and then hoisted to the display cradle as a single unit.
NASA Photo
 
1979--Rocket Park completed in late 1979
 
Winter is setting in and Rocket Park has its completed Saturn V and is open to visitors. Though there were plans to expand Rocket Park over the years, these three vehicles have been its only residents for over 30 years.
NASA Photo
On to Saturn V at JSC in the '80s >
NASA Photo
On to Saturn V at JSC in the '80s >
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Rocket Hardware-JSC Saturn V
Suddenly, Tomorrow Came...
A History of the Johnson Space Center
NASA SP-4307
Discover more about NASA's Johnson Space Center
Read Part 1 (downloadable PDF)
Read Part 2 (downloadable PDF)
Read Part 3 (downloadable PDF)
JSC Web Site
More JSC History
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*Due to PayPal fees, no donations less than $1.00, please.
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