Rocket Surgery

Very cool long-form read about a younger generation of NASA scientists and engineers bringing huge-ass 1960’s-era rockets back to life:

“Why was NASA working with ancient engines instead of building a new F-1 or a full Saturn V? One urban legend holds that key ‘plans’ or ‘blueprints’ were disposed of long ago through carelessness or bureaucratic oversight. Nothing could be further from the truth; every scrap of documentation produced during Project Apollo, including the design documents for the Saturn V and the F-1 engines, remains on file. If re-creating the F-1 engine were simply a matter of cribbing from some 1960s blueprints, NASA would have already done so.

A typical design document for something like the F-1, though, was produced under intense deadline pressure and lacked even the barest forms of computerized design aids. Such a document simply cannot tell the entire story of the hardware. Each F-1 engine was uniquely built by hand, and each has its own undocumented quirks. In addition, the design process used in the 1960s was necessarily iterative: engineers would design a component, fabricate it, test it, and see how it performed. Then they would modify the design, build the new version, and test it again. This would continue until the design was ‘good enough.'”

Nerds are the reason we can have nice things.

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