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.