The challenge of spaceflight drew upon the best and the brightest of a generation, and was the longest, most public and dramatic drama of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. With unshakeable momentum, the battle of minds and technology striving to take the first steps on the Moon served as a unifying counterpoint to the turbulent 1960s. With NASA’s successful Apollo missions, humanity was able to look back at Earth and see our fragile planet as never before. Today Apollo’s legacy lives on in a new space age that will take us to Mars and beyond.
How do you lift a skyscraper, balance it like a pencil on your finger, accelerate it fast enough to break the pull of gravity, and keep the three occupants on the top floor comfortable, safe and sound? And not just once, but as many times as we want. That was the task facing rocket scientists in the early 1960s. They responded with the biggest, most powerful engine ever-made—the F-1, and put five of them at the bottom of the biggest rocket ever-made—the Saturn V. And it worked every time.
The volcanic first stage lifted a 36-story Saturn V Moon rocket off of the launch pad and accelerated it up the first 40 miles of flight. Fuel spent, the first stage and its F-1 engines detached from the Saturn V as the upper stages continued on Apollo’s journey to space. And the first stage—this thunderous, fire-breathing, breath-taking tower of tech perfection fell into oblivion. Job done. Imagine the splash it made as it fell from space and into Atlantic Ocean. While Apollo reached orbit, the engines that got it there were already forgotten, sinking deeper than the Titanic. They lay lost at the bottom of the sea for 43 years until discovered and raised by Seattle-based Bezos Expeditions in 2013.
The sunken remains of the F-1s were our last missing links to the first days of space travel, and Apollo marks their first public display. A massive, aged and sculptural Apollo 12 F-1 engine that shows the scars of its service and the pressures of resting in the depths will be exhibited alongside the first Northwest display of an unused F-1, standing almost two-stories and looking as new and powerful as it did 50 years ago. Apollo 12’s story will also unfold with Moon rocks from the mission, as well as dozens of personal items used by Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad during his career as a Navy pilot and NASA astronaut.
Apollo will offer treasures large and small from the Space Race, including a rare, early Soviet space suit, a 1992 Russian Resurs 500 spacecraft, sections of NASA’s 1960s Houston Mission Control, a Boeing lunar rover, the first Apollo command module, and the only Viking Mars lander on Earth.