NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - It is a rich heritage, one in which Paul Faltyn, curator at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, takes a lot of pride. "We like to think the path to the moon leads right through Western New York."
Several Western New York companies have contributed to the space program since its inception including Moog, Calspan, Praxair, Carlton Technologies, AMPAC In-Space Propulsion and, of course, Bell Aerospace. In fact the museum has one of the Ascent engines created for the Apollo missions, while it never went into space, important tests were done with it.
And also in the collection, another piece of equipment that may look familiar to you, a plain-looking green, control console that played a part in one of the most dramatic events in Aerospace history, the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. It is the actual EECOM (Electrical, Environment, and Consumables) test station. This was the piece of equipment that Mission Control engineers were monitoring when the, now-infamous, transmission came across, "Houston, we have a problem." "This is the actual panel that NASA was monitoring when the oxygen tank exploded" says Faltyn.
That incident caused NASA to scrub what would have been the third lunar landing and instead begin a frantic rescue effort to get the astronauts home.Despite being crippled by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of water, the crew was able to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, and return safely to Earth. Faltyn says "This was giving them data from the spacecraft...showing them that their oxygen supply was depleting, the environmental systems were failing, and this is the prime panel they needed to keep the astronauts alive."
And Faltyn adds that having this piece of equipment in their collection, helps the Aerospace Museum keep the stories of sacrifice and service alive. "It's a tribute to the men and women of WNY, who for over 40 years, have worked in the aerospace aviation industry, who have developed over the years, so many air and aviation firsts here. It's just another tribute to the workers of this region."