Apollo spaceship lands in Hutchinson

Monday, November 1, 1976

An Apollo space ship being transported to Hutchinson for eventual display at the Planetarium finally "splashed down" Saturday night, but not without problems.

The command module used as a training and backup ship for the 1975 Apollo/Soyuz mission made the trip from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex., to Hutchinson at speeds well below the supersonic level it was constructed for.

Original splash down time in Hutchinson was Thursday but the TransAmerican Oil Corporation truck carrying the $23 million ship had trouble. TransAmerican is a Hutchinson corporation.

Rain slowed progress all the way through Texas, said Larry Brown, who drove the truck that carried the spacecraft. Then the truck developed mechanical problems and was forced to stop for repairs in Tonkawa, Okla.

Contaminated fuel

"The truck evidently recieved some contaminated fuel," said TransAmerica spokesman Dave Blevins. "It clogged up the fuel injectors and caused a real problem."

The truck had been overhauled before the trip to avoid any mechanical dificulty, but contaminated fuel wasn't in the plan.

A team of mechanics finally got the truck rolling again, but a technical snag developed.

In order to transport a load as large as the 12-foot by 13-foot wide space craft a special permit is required. The permit was issued for weekday travel only thus a special emergency permit for weekend transport had to be requested.

Max Aiy, Planetarium director, corrected that difficulty but there was still a rush against time since even the emergency permit was valid for only daylight travel.

Before dark

"They made it in just before dark Saturday," Blevins said.

There had been considerable concern about the safety of the 12,000 pound command module since, as Ary said, "you don't leave a $23 million space craft out in the elements very long."

The craft is being temporarily stored at a TransAmerica shed at 40 Kansas, South Hutchinson, and remains anchored to the large trailer on which it was transported.

Belvins has some questions about just how the craft is going to be removed from the trailer and located in its display location.

"There's nowhere to get ahold of the thing," Belvins said. "Of course they had all the special equipment to load it at the space' center, but I don't know where we're going to hook a crane to it."

For a brief time Sunday afternoon the ship was pulled out of the shed and into the sun. "It had some water condensation on the inside window so we wanted to dry it out," Blevins said.

Soon after the glimmering craft was pulled outdoors a crowd began to gather. Curious on-lookers awaited their turn to climb up a ladder and peer inside the craft.

"There sure isn't much room," one observer noticed.

"Gosh, so many controls and gadgets..." another remarked.

The craft was given to the Planetarium for permanent display by the Smithsonian Institution. Ary said 15 foreign countries and 35 national museums competed for the honor of displaying the ship which is an exact duplicate of the one fired into space during the joint American-Russian Apollo-Soyuz mission.