February 02, 2002
My dad used to work

My dad used to work on the Apollo space program. He has any number of stories, all of them funny. Some of them may actually be true. Here's one of them:

The big white building that they roll the shuttle out of is called the V.A.B. (Vehicle Assembly Building). The damned thing has to be at least 500 feet high, because the Saturn V it was built to hold was over 300 feet high, and the crawler and the tower over it added at least 100 feet over that. It is said that the top is so big you could fit Yankee Stadium on the top of it and have a whole acre of clearance around it. It was a time of giants.

Well, that particular giant needed its roof worked on, and the work involved sandblasting. The problem with sandblasting the roof was that the elevators didn't go all the way to the roof. They stopped about three floors from the top. You had to walk up staircases to actually get to the roof. This meant the construction workers involved had to schlepp 50 pound (22 kilo) bags of sand up three flights of steep, un-airconditioned stairs. Not fun.

So, when they were done, it was discovered that they had a few extra bags of sand left. This being government work, they would not be allowed to just leave the damned things up there, so the bags had to get to the ground. But it would be an even bigger pain schlepping them back down than it was getting them schlepped up. This is, apparently, when one of the "smart" ones had an idea.

This is where my dad comes in. The story goes that he was walking up to the V.A.B when he noticed guys on the roof motioning frantically at the ground. Further investigation revealed a white, flatbed, open-sided truck on the ground with a guide looking up at the guys on the roof, directing the driver to move the truck around. Eventually everyone decided that the truck was in the right position, and "thumbs-up" were motioned all around. The guys on the roof disappeared. A few seconds later (at this point in the story you can almost hear them shouting "ONE! TWO! THREE!!!") a small dot arcs over the roof of the V.A.B, decending rapidly. 50 pounds of sand began to demonstrate the newtonian theorem of gravity, with a 500 foot space within which to accelerate. You do the math to figure out how fast the damned thing was going when it reached ground level.

The amazing (!) thing was, they actually didn't miss the truck. They did, however, miss the truck BED, not that it would have made any difference. Apparently the bag hit with an allmighty BANG. It didn't actually smash the truck to bits. Instead it punched a cookie-cutter like hole in the roof, went through the cab, punched another hole in the passenger seat, and another in the floorboard, none with any other sort of cracking or tearing. Like you took scissors to the thing. It proceeded to tear the transmission completely from the mounts and bury it and the sandbag two or three feet into the concrete pavement below.

It is said that the roof workers were quite amazed.

Posted by scott at February 02, 2002 07:34 PM

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