Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NASA To Replace Iconic Countdown Clock After Maintenance Skyrockets

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Here is a riddle - what's about 26-feet-wide, and 7 feet tall?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's in Florida overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

BLOCK: Its display flashes numbers that heighten already great anticipation.

CORNISH: All right, here's a little audio hint that may help.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ignition sequence start. Six - five - four - three - two - one.

BLOCK: Got it? We're talking about a vintage timepiece, the Kennedy Space Center countdown-clock.

CORNISH: It's been ticking down launches for 45 years, since the second moon landing mission. It's done a great job all those years, but well, it's time to move on.

GEORGE DILLER: There's a lot of mixed emotions about watching that clock go because it has a lot of history to its.

BLOCK: That's NASA public affairs officer George Diller. Now, you might have expected the space agency to have had a high-tech device to mark the seconds to blast off. But Diller says there's nothing fancy about that old clock.

DILLER: It really was very simple. It was just incandescent bulbs and they were all done to create a numerical display.

CORNISH: By the way, those are 40 watt bulbs. The new clock will be a little more 21 century.

DILLER: We'll be going to a much more sophisticated display that's going to be an LED display that will be almost high definition in character.

BLOCK: Diller says NASA's spending $280,000 for the new display. It should be up and running when an unmanned Orion spacecraft is scheduled to lift off in early December.

CORNISH: NASA says it will save the historic countdown-clock for a possible display at its visitor center. Diller says it just didn't make sense to keep fixing it. It was hard to even find parts for it anymore.

DILLER: And the maintenance on it has just skyrocketed.

BLOCK: And you know NASA knows a thing or two about skyrockets. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.