Saturn V at Johnson Space Center
The Battle Against the Elements Begins...
As 1980 rolled around JSC had a brand new Rocket Park with three gleaming vehicles. The Mercury Redstone that was displayed had been moved a couple of hundred yards from the JSC Visitor Center. The Little Joe II booster was a new addition consisting of unused components from the mid-60's test program for the Apollo Launch Escape System. It sat on the original Little Joe II launch pad that had been transported from White Sands in New Mexico. The Little Joe II had a bit of "native" flavor to it in that it was topped by an Apollo capsule that had been on display at JSC next to the Mercury Redstone outside the JSC Visitor Center. The Saturn V had arrived by barge and was prepared onsite over the last three years of the '70s.
It became immediately evident just how inhospitable the Houston climate was to a vehicle that was never intended to see more than a few weeks outdoors. The paint job on the vehicle was not to protect from the elements but to provide visual cues for tracking and photography as well as thermal control. By 1980 the lettering was beginning to fade, the acidic wash of the Houston rains were making the paint streak, mosses and other plant life was beginning to take hold, and birds and rodents were beginning to make their homes within the seemingly "sealed" confines of the vehicle. The blistering Texas sun roasted the thermal coverings on the spacecraft and spacecraft adapter until they blistered and began to delaminate from the vehicle surfaces...they could withstand the short minutes of intense aerodynamic heating during launch but were no match for the relentless baking effects of the sun.
Several separate efforts were made through the 80s to repair and completely repaint the vehicle from end to end. Unfortunately, some of the efforts only served to accelerate the deterioration of the vehicle.
(Click on each image below for enlarged view. It may take a few moments to appear on slow connections)
1980's: Nature's Onslaught Begins
1983--SLA (Spacecraft Adapter) cork covering blistering
A thin layer of cork, designed to insulate the surface of the vehicle from aerodynamic heating during ascent, is delaminating from the surface of the SLA.
NASA photo
1983--RCS quad door insulation is peeling away.
The Service Module is completely covered in cork insulation and by 1982 had begun peeling away from the various edges of panels to which it had been applied.
NASA Photo
1983--SM and SLA get completely stripped for repainting.
Workers strip all paint and cork insulation down to the bare metal in preparation for repainting.
NASA Photo
1983--SM and SLA get completely stripped for repainting.
Workers strip all paint and cork insulation down to the bare metal in preparation for repainting.
NASA Photo
1984--Inside the S-II stage a surprise awaits
After only six years a considerable build up of nesting material and animal waste has collected in the seemingly sealed confines of the forward skirt area of the S-II (second) stage.
NASA Photo
1984--The S-II forward skirt interior after cleaning
After a thorough water-jetting the interior of the forward skirt area of the S-II is almost factory-clean. However, the lowermost portion of this area suffered from the corrosive effects and by now was completely corroded through to the outside.
NASA Photo
1984--S-II stage stripped of paint down to the foam external insulation.
The exterior foam insulation is stripped bare. Most loose paint is removed from the fore and aft skirts as well as on the yellow THD (Temporary Handling Device).
NASA Photo
1984--S-II stage receives new protection.
Workers apply a rubberized seal-coating to the foam insulation to be followed by another coating layer of a material which will allow the final white paint coat to adhere to the surface.
NASA Photo
1984--Finishing up the S-II stage cleaning and repaint.
The S-II has his black and white paint job and the thrust structure is cleaned. The thrust structure was not repainted at this time and the various boxes, piping, and wiring appear in their original (though faded) colors.
NASA Photo
1984--Freshly repainted S-IC (first) stage receives the Stars-and-Bars.
The original silkscreened American flags on the Saturn first stage are replaced by new vinyl sign-grade appliques.
NASA Photo
1986--More attention needed on the spacecraft.
After another two years of exposure the spacecraft and adapter need a bit more work.
NASA Photo
1986--More attention needed on the spacecraft.
After another two years of exposure the spacecraft and adapter need a bit more work.
NASA Photo
 
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