A little over two years ago, the Apollo Command Module Boilerplate known as BP-1207 traveled more than 1500 miles from its former home in Florida to join the collection at the New Mexico Museum of Space History. To the casual visitor, BP-1207 looks just fine, perhaps a little flaking paint or a touch of visible rust, but it’s a prime location for selfies and photo opportunities for the thousands of visitors who visit the museum each year.
To the trained eyes of museum staff, however, BP-1207 is in need of an all-out restoration. Decades of sitting outside in the elements has led to corrosion and rusting, particularly to the underside of the boilerplate. Enter Holloman Air Force Base’s 49th Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Metals Technology Shop and Structural Maintenance Shop. Responsible for the maintenance of aircraft at Holloman and the historic aircraft at the base’s Heritage Park, these two shops offered up their expertise, facilities, time and enthusiasm for the restoration of BP-1207. Then, Mesa Verde Enterprises stepped up and offered the services of their crane, truck, flatbed trailer, and staff members to take the artifact to Holloman.
The boilerplate was the first artifact the museum received as part of the Smithsonian Affiliates Program and is on loan from the National Air and Space Museum. With that in mind, museum curator Sue Taylor started the ball rolling to get permission from the Smithsonian for the preservation of the artifact.
“The Smithsonian takes artifact conservation very seriously, as do we here at the museum. Our goal is to make sure that when an artifact undergoes this process that everything is taken into account - from the present condition of the artifact to long term conservation goals and the facilities at Holloman where the restoration will take place. The plan we put together goes step by step through the entire process. The Smithsonian was very pleased with our plans and partnership with the 49thWing,” said Taylor. “I think the best part about this, though, is the excitement of the teams on base and their commitment to an authentic restoration of the boilerplate.”
On Monday, April 27, a half dozen crew members from Mesa Verde and their 35 ton crane moved BP-1207 onto a flatbed truck to start its journey to Holloman for its much needed facelift. Two New Mexico State Police cruisers escorted the boilerplate and its entourage to base, where for the next month the project will be in high gear.
“Our entire team is really excited about this project and the opportunity to continue the legacy of Holloman Air Force Base, working with various space programs, NASA, and the museum,” said TSgt Dustin Lockhart, with the Aircraft Metals Technology Shop. “The new guys who’ve come in to work with the F-16s are really excited about what they’re doing daily but they look at this as extraordinary opportunity for a once in a lifetime experience. They are really pumped up about this project and it has generated tons of positive energy in the shop.”
Lockhart’s team will be working on stabilization and restoration of the exterior of the 9,000 pound craft including possible replacement of areas that have been corroded through. Next, the Structural Maintenance Shop will strip off the existing paint, fill in appropriate areas, then repaint and letter the entire module in its original colors and font styles. A critical component of the plan is time, as the Maintenance Shop is scheduled to close temporarily at the end of May for remodeling so both shops will be working hard to get the project done before that deadline.
“A neat highlight of this entire project is that the Air Force, in addition to providing us with badly needed renovations on the boilerplate, is using this as a training opportunity for their junior personnel on techniques that they need to learn before the their shop closes down. That makes this a real win-win for all concerned,” said museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “We at the museum truly appreciate the partnerships we’ve developed with the personnel at Holloman and Mesa Verde. This project is a shining example of the commitment to the community that both of these organizations have proven over and over again.”
Upon completion of the project, the Mesa Verde crew will bring BP-1207 back to the museum and install it in its new location in front of Astronaut Memorial Garden.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org.