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Lot 45: APOLLO LUNAR MODULE CABIN RELIEF AND DUMP VALVE PLUG
May 16, 2010
Beverly Hills, CA, USALive Auction
APOLLO LUNAR MODULE CABIN RELIEF AND DUMP VALVE PLUG
This object's disk frame, cut from a solid block of titanium, was to be located forward of the starboard pilot's left leg. Once the astronauts were suited up for a moon walk, the cabin would be depressurized by opening the dump valve and letting the air out.
Though the disk never flew, its history is only scarcely less interesting than if it had.
This particular artifact is a construction method test article, never assigned to a specific LM. Dump valve disks, flight-assigned titanium rock hammers, and other simple shapes were the first objects ever to be cut by machine using what was then affectionately named "rudimentary transporter technology." The phrase referred to experiments demonstrating that 3-D computerized instructions for replicating an object in a room located on another part of the continent was a feasible, albeit expensive concept (though the computers involved were Neanderthal-esque by comparison to today's simplest Game Boy software, the cost of the equipment worked out to about $700 dollars  to manufacture one dump valve disk or moon rock hammer).
To cut these objects, 3-D blueprints were transmitted by phone line from as far away as White Sands to the Grumman machine shop in Bethpage New York, where computer controlled machines duplicated the shapes remotely. Though the process worked (and is now common throughout the world), after 1967 it was decided that no critical space-flight items should be allowed to go from "the replicator" onto the spacecraft. In those days, an object not manufactured by human hands and not under the direct control of human eyes was not to be trusted. (However, all solid titanium geological tools that went to the moon - including the rod to which Alan Shepard attached his golf club-head - were manufactured by replicator programs).