"Fonts" of the S-IC
The "Small Stuff"
It's fairly easy to ascertain the general size and shape of the large lettering on the Saturn V first stage. But just barely visible in many photos are those "ghostly" tiny letters that mark the various hatches, vents, and what-not on the stage. In spite of common belief, the "font" was not a common form of Helvetica but was a letterform that had its roots in the World War II (and perhaps earlier). This letterform has appeared on close-up photos of Boeing B-29 bombers (credit Rick Sternbach). This is completely logical given that the Saturn S-IC stage was also manufactured by Boeing.
The actual shapes shown here come from photos taken of the Saturn V at Johnson Space Center soon after its arrival there in 1978 as well as actual measurements taken from a few remaining traces of the lettering found on that vehicle during its conservation project in 2004-2005. It appeared on that stage in various areas in 1", 1.5" and 2" tall sizes. The color was a very bright (nearly fluorescent) yellow-orange. The letters on the stage were not stencils or painted on but were individually applied adhesive backed plasticized paper material. In general, they were applied to the individual stage components during manufacture of each component before the stage was assembled.
The letters "J", "Q", and "Z" as well as any numerals are not included because they were not found among the JSC S-IC stage markings in this letterform.
Markings on the personnel access hatch area of the fore S-IC skirt. A good representation of the location of the door markings as well as the markings for the vents and drain holes located about the skirt. All three sizes of the lettering are also found in this area. The color is somewhat faded due to outdoor exposure at the time the photo was taken. The lettering faded rapidly over the next two years until they were removed some time after 1981. At the time this photo was taken (1981) the stage had already received a repainting and the lettering was simply masked over as whole blocks, leaving the original yellowing paint around the letters. The letters were themselves individual adhesive-backed appliqués. The lettering appears upside down because...well...that's the way it appears as displayed.
John Pursley photo circa 1981.
The S-IC intertank umbilical panel as it appeared in 1981. Note the alignment and "centering" of the lettering. The vehicle was displayed at JSC with this hatch removed for some time and was one of the last components added when it was put at its current display site (the vehicle originally rested in a parking lot about 100 yards north of its current location. The vehicle is now in a building but is situated unmoved from its resting place when moved from the parking lot in 1979.
Photo circa 1979 by John Pursley.
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