(Gus, they found everything but your keys!)
Is there anyone who wasn't shocked to see this little spacecraft loom out of the Atlantic darkness in July 1999? In my view, sitting alone on the bottom of the Atlantic was no way to be. You become way too famous as a reknowned rediscovered relic. Just ask Titanic...
The reknowned spacecraft wizards at Kansas Cosmosphere (KCS) restored Liberty Bell 7 over several months in 1999-2000, and she is currently undergoing national inspection. The Discovery Channel, which financed the recovery expedition, is sponsoring a U.S. tour. First stop was, appropriately enough, back to the launch point (well, close enough) at Kennedy Space Center.
The delightful historical road leading up to Gus' restored ship is thoughtful and well told. But, rounding the corner and gazing upon the restored work is, well, an emotional rush for any space enthusiast. The hull is surprisingly intact, with just a few "titanium moth holes," and small interior chunks replaced with plastic sheeting - the instrument panel being most obvious.
The periscope (above, center left) looks almost new, a big quartz eye staring out from its own small hatchway. The landing bag looks a bit empty 'round back: since sea organisms apparently found the organic material in the heat shield pretty appetizing, the shield is completely missing. The hoist cable, cut away by the recovery helicopter crew when the water-filled spacecraft grew too heavy to safely lift, still dangles from Liberty Bell's nose.
Gus' flight momentos included several Mercury series dimes (U.S. 10 cent coins) - very appropriate - and a few dollar bills. How about these bits (right), probably provided back in 1961 from some unknown (but quite likely careless) McDonnell-Douglas spacecraft builder: a cigarette butt and a plastic drinking cup, found inside the spacecraft. What ever happened to "cleaning up after yourself?"
And the final fitting tribute to Apollo 1: Gus' lost command... The early Apollo pressure helmet and suit that were never worn, on a flight that never flew - but lives on as a symbol of Apollo's triumphant rebirth.
"The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."