On July 20, 1969 2 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, made history as the first people ever to step on the moon’s surface. We are celebrating not just the moonwalk, but the achievements of 400,000 engineers and scientists that helped make it happen, and we are keen to preserve those efforts in a digital world.

The road towards that successful moonwalk was filled with disaster, tragedy and success starting with a fire on the Apollo 1 rocket in 1967 which killed the three astronauts aboard. After a lot more development, learning and testing, Apollo 11 lifted off from launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center and went off to make history.

45 years after the first man walked onthe moon, the Apollo engines were scanned in 3D to regain as-built data

Hundreds of thousands engineers and scientists made this possible and the innovations developed by them still affect our lifestyles today. More recent technology also enables those innovations to continue to be developed. 5 years ago, Shape Fidelity, a 3D scanning service provider, was contracted by NASA completely 3D scanned an Apollo engine to deliver ‘as-built’ 3D data that was never available before. This would enable engineers to be able to reuse the Apollo engine data in new rocket engines being developed for future moon walks. Using 3D scanners and Geomagic® Wrap reverse engineering software, the entire engine was recreated as voluble 3D parts. (Read the full story here)

Archiving and protecting those innovations doesn’t stop there. USF’s Digital Heritage and Humanities Collection (DHHC) group in the USF libraries, has been 3D scanning, surveying and spatial recording of historic rocket launch complexes. The result is a series of important educational and interpretative digital collections of the Launch Complexes at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which supported many of the Apollo missions.

Dr. Lori Collins, Research Associate Professor and Director at the Digital Heritage and Humanities Center (DHHC), University of South Florida Libraries

Led by its principal investigators, Drs. Lori Collins and Travis Doering, the USF team is providing accurate 3D models and landscape data for as-built and condition assessment tools for historic preservation, management, and archival documentation. The USF DHHC team uses a number of tools in their documentation workflow, including terrestrial laser scanning, high resolution structured light 3D scanners, and photogrammetry. These data provide pointcloud information that are further processed using Geomagic Wrap and Geomagic Design X software packages to produce meshed models that can be easily shared via web and virtual reality platforms.

"3D Digital capture of artifacts enables scientists, engineers and researchers to be able to understand an innovation and develop on it. It also prevents total loss of information if those artifacts are destroyed,” commented Dr. Lori Collins. “As we celebrate not just the moonwalk but the achievements of 400,000 engineers and scientists to make it happen, so we are keen to preserve their efforts in a digital world.

(Click on the play button above to see one of the 3D models created by USF DHHC, via SketchFab)

USF’s DHHC team has digitally archived Launch Complex 34 which was constructed in 1961. is associated with the Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B missile test flights and two Apollo program launches. The site was deactivated in November of 1971, and two years later it was abandoned in place. 3D data, online tours of the site including 3D visualizations can be found at the links below.

See the LC 34 Apollo Memorial on Sketchfab: https://skfb.ly/6Kv6A

Tour the site on Google Arts and Culture: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/_gLSMpR35R_lLw

Find out more about our Open Heritage 3D project: https://www.lib.usf.edu/news/preserving-heritage-providing-open-access/

Download the 3D pointcloud for the LC 34 Apollo Memorial on Open Heritage 3D: https://openheritage3d.org/project.php?id=kz88-9d21