Back to the Future
Like vinyl records and skinny ties, good things eventually come back around. At NASA, that means looking to the Apollo program for ideas on how to develop the next generation of rockets for future missions to the moon and beyond.
Young engineers who weren’t even born when the last Saturn V rocket took off for the moon are testing a vintage engine from the program.
The engine, known to NASA engineers as No. F-6049, was supposed to help propel Apollo 11 into orbit in 1969, when NASA sent Neil Armstrong and two other astronauts to the moon for the first time. The flight went off without a hitch, but no thanks to the engine — it was grounded because of a glitch during a test in Mississippi and later sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it sat for years.
Now engineers are learning to work with technical systems and propellants not used since before the start of the space shuttle program, which launched in 1981.