in Space

Space watch traces history back to Zambian village

Posted 22 July 2019 · Add Comment

A piece of space history rescued from a remote Zambian villager’s roof is now becoming part of a Moon landings limited edition commemorative watch.

The high-quality Swiss watches from Anglo-African company West One are the culmination of years of effort by the West One founders since in 1975 they discovered what was clearly metal from a space rocket.
Pilot Graham Sheppard made the discovery when he landed at West One airstrip in a remote part of north-west Zambia in a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft, while collecting a patient for the Zambia Flying Doctor Service.
In a fascinating story Graham’s youngest son Richard, who ended up living in Zambia, recovered the metal in 2000 after a long and at times frustrating search. Luckily, the panel survived the intervening years unscathed having been used for a roof on a villager’s hut.
Detailed analysis, after the 13ft by 8ft metal panel was recovered to the UK, showed it to be from NASA Mission AS-203, an Apollo Saturn IB rocket that launched on 5th July 1966 from Pad 37B at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission was designed to test the re-firing of the S-IVB upper stage’s single rocket engine, which would ultimately take man to the Moon as the upper stage of the Saturn V rockets.
However, the stage failed after its 4th orbit following a planned test to pressurize the liquid hydrogen (LH2) tank beyond design limits. Failure of the common bulkhead between the LH2 and liquid oxygen (LOX) was expected but in fact the entire stage broke up, with debris scattered over the South Atlantic and into continental Africa. This was observed from a radar tracking station in the Caribbean.
The metal is aluminium alloy (with 4.3% Copper and 1% Silicon) selected for the Apollo programme and this particular alloy (AA2014/T62) was selected for the hydrogen tank of the S-IVB stages, designed and constructed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) in Huntington Beach, California.
The metal is now being used in a limited edition watch in three distinct designs, Eagle, Saturn and Orion. The watches will be available later in the year and will cost around $1,000. They are limited edition and will be individually numbered.

A video showing the watches can be seen at https://vimeo.com/347716644/c8d61f6f5d


 

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