Archive for June, 2010

Radarange - Amana Corporation

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

A few days ago I was helping out at the US Space Camp Davidson Space and Rocket Center. For those of you who are not familiar with this attraction, it is one of only 2 places in the world where you can view an actual historical Apollo Saturn 5 rocket. The Davidson center hosts special events, concerts, dinner events and fund raisers under the rocket which is laying sideways and suspended above the floor of the building such that guests can walk under its entire length and marvel at this wonder of engineering that took Americans to the moon.

One of the guests asked me a very interesting question which I will get to in a second. First a little background on the context of the question. In the museaum floor there is a silver looking trailer. It is the actual isolation chamber that was used to quarentine the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and “Buzz” Aldrin after they returned from the moon in the event that they might bring back some moon virus.

It turns out that someone called into the US Space Camp and informed them that they had one of the isolation chambers from the Apollo program on their property. The people at the Space Camp didn’t believe the caller because at the time they had records that showed were all of the isolation chambers were located. However, upon inspection it was discovered that sure enough the isolation chamber was real and it was donated to the US Space Camp. They did a full restoration of it and it is on display in the Museaum now.

There is a glass observation area just inside the side entrance to the isolation chamber and just to the left you can see what appears to be a microwave oven.

My guest friend asked me if that was a microwave oven, if they had microwave ovens back in those days, and if they did, if that was the actual oven that the astronauts used. This question perked my imagination so I decided to do a little digging. I first and went to look at the device in the isolation chamber and first noticed that the oven has a fine mesh over the inside of the viewing window into the oven. This to me was a halmark of a microwave shielding that is, to this day, in across the front of every microwave oven ever made. Second was the instruction manual nicely sitting on the top of the oven. It said in bright red letters, “Radarange - Amana Corporation”

So I did a little more digging online and discovered that Amana corporation started in 1934 as a refrigeration company according to the wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amana_Corporation

They released their first microwave oven in 1947. The wiki goes on to describe that Amana introduced a consumer model of the Radarange in 1967, well before the Apollo 11 flight in 1969. Since this model would have been avaliable at the time I have no doubt that NASA would have purchased one for the Apollo astronauts! The only question that remains is; Is that oven the actual oven that the astronauts used? I do not have an answer for this question, but I do have a possible hint. I don’t know of very many Radarange Amana Corporation microwave ovens from the 60’s just lying around, do you?