The following articles were posted to the sci.space.history newsgroup in 2001. They are gathered here in one place for easy research and reading. Thank you very much to Dan for sharing this fascinating glimpse into the experiences of an Apollo design engineer.
The F-1 engine is the largest rocket engine ever constructed. Five of these powered stage 1 of the Saturn-V rocket which launched the lunar Apollo astronauts.
The engine was first used in the unmanned Apollo 4, launched on 9 Nov 1967. Its last flight was in the Saturn V which launched Skylab on 14 May 1973. In between, it took 12 astronauts to walk on the moon.
Recollections of Dan Brevik in Apollo
I have been asked to comment on some topics concerning the F-1 and
will gladly do so. Please let me proceed at my own pace and I promise
I will try and cover all questions.
Actually, I think I will first answer some unasked questions like what
was it like working at Rocketdyne in the 50's and especially on The Hill
and some human interest stuff like that. I'll get into technical issues
when I think the groundwork is laid. This is, after all is said and
done, a human story involving real people confronting confusing and
sometimes frightening realities. The technical issues are part of the
story, but just a part.
I'd really like to get you kind of emotionally involved and try to
transmit to you what it was like and get you to feel like you were there.
I think it's important for an older generation to pass along what things
felt like because then the newer generation can relate much more readily.
I will feel like I have succeeded if I can just get even one of you to
think to yourself, "My God, I understand what they went through.
And it could have been me. It could have been me."
You understand what I'm getting at? I hope.
We've recently received a few requests about the whereabouts of Dan
Brevik. Dan hasn't forgotten about us, but he has been busy with non-
space tasks recently. With Dan's permission, I'd like to summarize my
meeting with him last summer.
Dan introduced himself to sci.space a while back, wanting to talk about
his work at Rocketdyne. Dan ran a test-stand for rocket engines and
later did the chemical engineering for the F-1 engine. Almost
immediately, there was a big happy fun flame fest(*) and Dan took a low
profile. These days, he lurks in the moderated groups.
(* unrelated to Dan's post. - Ed)
In a New England Rollcall thread a few months later, Dan identified
himself as living in the town next to me, so I chimed in, claiming we
were neighbors. He then asked me if I remembered a particular
billboard. I looked up toward it and replied "yes". I thought it was a
wild coincidence that I was sitting under the billboard when he asked
about it. (The billboard is on top of a building with a bagel
restaurant where I often have breakfast. Many years ago, it had a
memorial to the local astronaut. Christa McAuliffe grew up and when to
college in my town.)
Knowing we were neighbors, Dan contacted me, inviting me to his house
to discuss a project. I arrived at his home, accepted a large glass of
ice tea, and stepped onto his deck, walking through his screen door,
ripping it from the track. I know how to make a first impression, now I
have to work on making a good first impression. I took Dan's pencil and
paper and asked a preliminary question, something like "how did you get
interested in rockets, anyway?" I then sat back absolutely spellbound
for the next two and half hours as Dan described what it was like to
run a rocket-engine test stand and how the F-1 came to be.
He discussed the technical aspects of engineering a big engine. He gave
me a homework assignment: take a couple of garden hoses, turn them on
full blast and point the streams of water toward each other in such a
way that the two streams impinge and result in a well-dispersed fog.
Picture doing this with kerosene and liquid oxygen. Picture doing this
with millions of pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen. Dan taught me
that combustion instability is an acoustic resonance within the engine.
In everything I've ever read about Apollo, no one else has explained
just what combustion instability is, and Dan did it in just a few
sentences. Dan also gave me an understanding of the people-side things.
I've long been impressed by the NASA management of Apollo, but Dan
taught me to impressed with much of what Rocketdyne did. Of course,
there was also a bit of "back stage gossip" and stories about the
nightlife surrounding Rocketdyne.
Dan was asking for my help in a project was to fulfill a request from
the NASA History Office, which is asking for oral histories of the
people involved with Apollo. He wanted to discuss my helping prepare
his memoirs. Over the next few days, he and I were working out the
details in a series of emails. About this time, he and his wife
received a contract for a different history, a book about a doll
manufacturer that was active for 40 years or so in the 20th Century.
That book took requires their full time and attention, suspending his
Dan has recently told me that doll book is in good shape and he should
be able to return to the Rocketdyne memoirs soon. I've reiterated that
I'll be happy to help him with the project in any way. I've also told
him that if he wishes to make the memoir available to a wider audience,
I'd be happy to help with that, too, even posting it on
www.scispace.org if that is what he wants.
Kevin Willoughby email@example.com
"Ours was a world of thrust, mixture ratio and flow
rates - and damage assessment." -- Dan Brevik
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