*New* : From Teflon to Bronze

FROM TEFLON-COATED BETA CLOTH TO BRONZE

During his lifetime, Apollo Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt has worn the most expensive suits in history. His Apollo 17 EMU (extravehicular mobility unit), NASAese for ‘space suit’, cost $12,000,000 (1968 dollars); and he had two flight-rated ones— one of them as a back-up in case the prime suit failed pre-launch checks. The complex design of the J-mission (Apollos 15, 16, 17) suits was designated as A7LB versus the A7LA designation for Neil Armstrong’s suit on Apollo 11 and for those used on missions prior to Apollo 15. The outermost material of the suit, and its backpack (Portable Life Support System or PLSS) consisted of Teflon cloth and Teflon-coated Beta cloth.

Fig. 1. Schmitt in his white A7LB suit early in EVA-1 while setting up the Surface Electrical Properties (SEP) transmitter. A compensatory advantage of wearing it in lunar gravity balanced with the backpack (PLSS) is the ability to lean at larger angles without falling. A major disadvantage is the rapid accumulation of fine dust in the fabric from the lunar regolith as seen here when it was only moderately dirty. Schmitt, himself, has advocated the necessity of developing a dust-resistant fabric for future astronaut suits on the Moon; possibly passive and/or active in nature, but perhaps not quite as drastic as Alec Guinness’s invention in the 1951 film, (“The Man in the White Suit”). (NASA photo AS17-134-20440).

His lunar space suit is preserved in the National Air and Space Museum, and is rated as the best preserved of all the space suits returned from the Moon’s surface. It is not on public display. It may, however, be dissected as part of a program to re-design future space suits to the Moon.

But people will be able to see a copy of it in bronze if they pass through the Apollo Saturn V Visitors Center near Pad 39A at Cape Kennedy, a fitting location for its display since it looks out towards Pad 39A where Astronaut Schmitt left for the Moon on December 7, 1971.

Fig. 2. Pads 39A,B at Cape Kennedy (Canaveral) is shown at the right. The Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) is at bottom left of center. The Apollo Saturn V Center is marked next to the Shuttle landing strip with the arrow from it pointing to PAD 39A. (Modified from Google Maps).

The statue of Schmitt, a native of New Mexico, was recently dedicated there on June 18, 2019 by officials of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly the Orbital ATK Corporation that merged with Northrop-Grumman Corporation in June, 2018).

The statue was sculpted in clay and cast in bronze by the artisans at the Bollinger Atelier Foundry in Tempe, AZ. The following collection of photos shows the development of the statue as well as the final version before shipment and later at the dedication ceremony. The artisans not only captured the cloth-like details of the suit, hoses, and attachments, but also the finish reflects a remarkable verisimilar appearance to reality. Even the American flag looks like cloth rather than bronze! A recounting of the main elements of creating the statue was published in the blog on the Bollinger Atelier’s website in their Project Series.

Fig. 3. The version in clay sculpted by Tom Bollinger (2nd from left), founder of the Bollinger Atelier Foundry, and his colleagues. Orbital co-founder and former Director Scott Webster (crossed arms, checkered shirt) is looking on. Scott, along with David Thompson (former Orbital ATK CEO), was instrumental in initiating the statue project. Jacob Sternberg, the atelier general manager, at right is facing Jack in the white shirt. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

After the armature was covered in clay, the Atelier founder and master sculptor, Tom Bollinger and his colleagues sculpted the suit and fabric that served for the molds. Jack was consulted on fine details as these next several photos illustrate.

Fig. 4. The appearance of the statue from the rear. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 5. The statue as seen from its right side. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 6. Discussing a finer point with the general manager, Jacob Sternberg. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 7. Close-up of the chest area showing the Remote Control Unit (RCU), which controlled communications, oxygen and water flow, suit temperature and also served as the mount for the Hasselblad surface camera. Various umbilical connectors are shown in place. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 8. A look at the right arm and glove. A higher resolution look at the glove cuff shows the fabric pattern as seen in the next photo. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 9. Enlargement of part of the right hand glove and cuff showing the fine elastic fabric patterns and sewing stitches. (from the previous photo by T. A. Fitzgibbon).

Fig. 10. Discussing a point about one of the suit leg pockets. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 11. The pockets on the finished statue complete with some of the various paints and patinas applied which bring out the colors and smaller suit details and are faithful to the original suit. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 12. Noting a possible improvement in the representation of the boot treads in lunar dust. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 13. The team of Bollinger Atelier artisans and staff who worked together to produce the final bronze statue along with Scott Webster and Jack Schmitt. (Bollinger Atelier photo).

Fig. 14. Tom Bollinger and his artisans with the finished statue, the astronaut, and his wife, Teresa. (Bollinger Atelier photo).

Fig. 15. The astronaut speaking with an artisan about the work that went into creating the final product, representative of an unique period in world history. Noteworthy is the fact that everything mounted on the marble plinth is bronze. All of the colors were produced by special paints and patination— reactions between the component metals of bronze with various applied chemicals (click on finishing in the list at left of the Production page). (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 16. The final product as seen from below and in front. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 17. Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt and his avatar reminding us that no matter how intense and significant are certain periods in history, time itself is relentless. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 18. The Apollo astronaut memorialized in bronze on a marble plinth. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Fig. 19. The inscription on the marble base is labeled: “Dr. Harrison Hagan Schmitt: Exploring a Valley on the Moon. Apollo 17 Astronaut – 12th American to step onto the Moon, December 11, 1972 – United States Senator, 1977-1983.” The longer inscription is given in text. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy set the United States on Earth’s first journey to the Moon. The Apollo Program fulfilled a dream as old as humanity through magnificent technical achievement and ardent courage. This statue honors the thousands of men and women of Apollo whose dedication, perseverance and patriotism enabled twelve American explorers to take humankind’s first steps onto another world.

A Valley on the Moon

I would like to tell you of a place I have seen in the Solar System. This place is a valley on the Moon, now known as the Valley of Taurus-Littrow. Taurus-Littrow is a name not chosen with poetry in mind; but, as with many names, the mind’s poetry is created by events. Events surrounding not only three days in the lives of three men, but also the close of an unparalleled era in human history.

The massif walls of the valley rise to heights that compete well among other valleys of the planets; but they rise and stand with a calmness and unconcern that belies dimensions and speaks silently of continuity in the scheme of evolution. Still, the valley is not truly silent; its cliffs yet roll massive pages of history down dusty slopes; its bosom yet warms the valley floor and spreads new chapters of creation in glass and crystal; its craters yet act as the archives of their sun.

The valley has watched the unfolding of thousands of millions of years of time. Now it has dimly and impermanently noted man’s homage and footprints. Man’s return is not the concern of the valley … only the concern of man.

Harrison Hagan Schmitt, Ph.D.
Address to the United States House of Representatives
January 22, 1973
Donated by Orbital ATK, Inc.
October 2018

Fig. 20. Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt with Tom Bollinger, sculptor of the statue, in the latter’s office at the Bollinger Atelier in Mesa, AZ. Note the small bronze maquette of the statue on the shelf at far left, and a finished miniature between the two. (T. A. Fitzgibbon photo).

The finished statue, standing 11.5 ft. high and weighing 3,023 lbs including the marble base, was trucked to the Kennedy Space Center for installation in the Apollo Saturn V Visitors’ Center. The formal dedication in front of invited guests took place on June 18, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. Several photos from the ceremony are shown below.

Fig. 21. The statue in place in the Apollo Saturn V Visitors’ Center. The doors in the right photo face across Futch Cove towards the Atlantic Ocean, north of PAD39B; but the angled camera view, nearly that of the face of the statue, looks through the doors directly towards PAD39A (see Fig. 2↑). (Photos by the editor).

Fig. 22. Jack delivering his dedication response before the invited guests. (Editor’s photo).

Fig. 23. The ribbon cutting with (l. to r.), Janet E. Petro (Kennedy Space Center Deputy Director); Therrin Protze (Saturn V Center Director); Harrison Schmitt; David W. Thompson (former ATK Orbital CEO); and Blake E. Larson (Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems president), assisting. (Editor’s photo).

Fig. 24. Ron Wells, the editor of the AUS website, Teresa Fitzgibbon, and Harrison H. Schmitt after the ceremony. (Editor’s photos).

The speech given by Jack thanking all those involved in the production and dedication of the statue is given in full here:

Apollo Statue Dedication Remarks
Kennedy Space Center
June 18, 2019
Harrison Hagan Schmitt

This remarkable work of art, the Apollo Statue, stands as a wonderful honor for the hundreds of thousands who made Apollo successful and a humbling honor for me.

I thank Dave Thompson, Scott Webster, and other Members of the Orbital ATK Board for their original initiative and support of the Apollo Statue project. David and Scott, along with Bruce Ferguson, fresh out of MIT, and their early investor Fred Alcorn created Orbital Sciences 37 years ago, the legacy of which, along with ATK, lives within Northrop Grumman. That phenomenal, Orbital legacy will continue to give extraordinary service to the nation for the foreseeable future.

Thank you also Northrop Grumman and your staff for following through on this endeavor.

Most of all, thanks to Kim and Tom Bollinger and their dedicated team for creating a magnificent work of art that celebrates not only the Apollo Program, but the more than 400,000 Americans who underpinned its success.

The individual and family sacrifices made by these Americans became the fuel that took us on that unknown path to the Moon. At this Saturn V Center, we are particularly reminded of the sacrifices of the astronauts and families of Apollo 1 — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee.

There also are thousands of unsung heroes who should be acknowledged. These men and women, who are now part of history, were mostly in their twenties when they committed to Apollo. The average age of engineers in Mission Control during the Apollo 13 emergency was 26!

When I look at this statue, I also see Roger Viziolis at Grumman who, in the cadre of engineers at Bethpage, worked around the clock, through test after test, to give us the Lunar Module, including the Challenger that took Apollo 17 into a valley on the Moon.

Then there was a kid, Bill Moon, growing up in rural Mississippi, working in his immigrant parent’s grocery store, who ultimately manned the electrical power and distribution system console (EECOM) for the Command and Service Module. Bill, with many individuals like him, watched over and protected all the Apollo spacecraft while we slept. These are the heroes that brought the Apollo 13 crew safely home.

John Llewellyn, a physicist and Marine veteran of the “Advance to the Sea” from the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, was Mission Control’s Flight Dynamics Officer (FIDO), one of Apollo’s most legendary and uncontrollable characters, and a member of my Lunar Mafia group that stirred up NASA planning every once in a while. With John’s help, we successfully argued for a change in the targeting for Apollo 10 that ultimately meant Apollo 11 would land at Tranquillity Base. Landing Apollo 17 on the lunar far side was one of our more Quixotic projects.

Maureen Bowen of Washington, D.C. was an early employee of the Flight Operations Division who was one of the internally famous and outstanding administrative assistants at the Manned Spacecraft Center. Maureen’s skills made possible the work of thousands of engineers and managers during the Apollo era.

Joe Schmitt grew up shining shoes in his brother-in-law’s barbershop in O’Fallon, Illinois. In the late ‘30s, he was an Army Air Corps parachute rigger and became one of the finest suit-techs you could ever ask for, always ready at a moment’s notice to prepare a crew for a suited test.

Texan Flora Lowes who, with the team in Mission Planning and Analysis, calculated the trajectories and star guidance updates needed for flights between the Earth and the Moon as well as between Earth and Mars as early as 1968.

My personal good friends, Gene Shoemaker and his team at the Astrogeology Branch of the Geological Survey in Flagstaff, from the outside of NASA, led the introduction of the science of field geology into the Apollo Program. Far less science would have been done with the statue’s hammer had Gene not persisted and insisted that science should be integrated into lunar landing missions.

I should also mention that walking on the Moon in the A7LB suit was the first and only time I wore couture, not from the house of Gucci, but from the house of ILC…, — sewn by Bert Pilkenton and Ruth Ratledge and their fellow seamstresses who carefully stitched together what is recreated here in bronze.

What you see before you is a bronze statue of not just an “extravehicular mobility unit,” its NASA designation, but a statue of a spacecraft that included protection, life support, communications, and propulsion— that propulsion, of course, being provide by me, sometimes not too gracefully.

Without this spacecraft, we could not have explored the Moon. It is depicted here in unique detail by the artist Tom Bollinger and his foundry. The remarkable spacesuit, depicted by the artist in stunning detail, protected us against the 150º C of surface heat in the sun and minus 150º of cold in shadow.

This suit allowed me to ski across a valley on the Moon, sample its lavas and breccias, giving scientists then and now the research gift that keeps on giving. “Missions” to the Moon have gone on continuously for 50 years in the laboratories and brains of thousands of lunar scientists, all beginning with the outstanding suite of samples collected 50 years ago by Neil Armstrong.

The valley Apollo 17 explored, Taurus-Littrow, is a magnificent place. Deeper than the Grand Canyon, its walls rise thousands of feet above the valley floor, brightly illuminated by a brilliant Sun and set against a blacker than black sky that includes our home, a beautiful blue Earth, only 250,000 miles away.

It is especially appropriate that this statue honors the men and women of Apollo and specifically honors them in this hall that displays the other extraordinary technology that made flights to the Moon possible, the incomparable Saturn V.

Every time I stand under this Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center, I marvel at the aggregate creative genius of the managers, designers, builders, testers and launch teams that brought these rockets to life. Had circumstances been different, this particular launch vehicle would have sent Apollo 18 and its crew of Dick Gordon, Vance Brand and me to a seventh lunar exploration site.

Young people viewing this statue may realize that they can reach even beyond Apollo, settle the Moon, and use its helium energy resources to help the Earth, and its other resources to carry them forward to Mars.

In my own wildest, youthful imagination, I never fathomed that the cubby nerdy kid growing up on 80 acres in the rural American West would find himself traveling through the Universe on a Saturn V beast. At the age of 11, from 100 miles away, I even watched Saturn V precursors launch from White Sands and never gave a thought to what might be. And then, ultimately, to fly the Apollo 17 mission to explore lunar craters, scarps and massifs.

When my father’s friends enquired about what I was doing in NASA, after I began Air Force jet pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, the World War I Horse Marine would respond, skeptically, “He thinks he is going to the Moon!” Then laughter would follow. Sadly, my father passed away unexpectedly before I walked on the Moon.

It’s quite unbelievable, as well as humbling, to be honored with this extraordinary sculpture that now sits in the morning shadow of the Saturn’s pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where it all culminated for Apollo 11, fifty years ago. On that day, from three miles away, as we walked among the Florida dunes apart from the astronaut viewing area, I was privileged to view that historic launch in the isolated and unexpected company of one of aviation’s heroes, Charles Lindbergh. As we watched, the dedication of hundreds of thousands of American men and women answered John F. Kennedy’s challenge of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Again, on behalf of all my Apollo colleagues, heralded and unheralded, I thank you.

*******

 

Copyright © by Harrison H. Schmitt, 2020. All rights reserved.