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NASA’s Dharma Initiative “Swan Station?”

The order in which your escape route from the launch pad would occur (from left to right): 1) launch pad slide, 2) Rubber Room slide chute, 3) blast room entrance, 4) chairs, 5) spring loaded floor, 6) use of chemical air treatment, 7) exit the blast room, 8) tunnel away from launch pad, 9) exit station.

The order in which your escape route from the launch pad would occur (from left to right): 1) launch pad slide, 2) Rubber Room slide chute, 3) blast room entrance, 4) chairs, 5) spring loaded floor, 6) use of chemical air treatment, 7) exit the blast room, 8) tunnel away from launch pad, 9) exit station. Photo Credits: Jon Brack

 

All that is missing is the computer, the beeping, and a prompt to enter the code 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

The dome-shaped survival room deep under Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida could be corking an electromagnetic build up as in the J.J. Abrams show “Lost,” or it could be the emergency egress chamber used during the Apollo era to protect anyone at the launch pad who could reach it from a full detonation of all three stages of a Saturn V rocket. It’s hard to tell.

Abandoned for over 40 years, one half expects to find the Dharma Initiative’s Desmond doing his laundry as you open the blast door and enter the complex, dubbed the “Rubber Room” for its padded entryway at the base of a 200-foot slide from the Zero Level of the launch pad base.

The blast room, now marked as a NASA artifact.

The blast room, now marked as a NASA artifact. Photo Credit: Susan Poulton

 

The room consists of 20 large, heavy chairs surrounding a center cage where blankets and provisions were stored so that they would not fly all over the room when the blast occurred (or a convenient place to lock up the leader of the Others, Ben Linus, when you finally capture him on the island). The chairs are situated on a spring-loaded concrete floor to absorb any shockwave from above. Individuals were strapped in by a four-point, parachute-style safety belt.

There’s a toilet (with a bucket inside), and a place for burning chemicals to remove carbon dioxide and generate oxygen similar to those used as safety procedures in mines. Twenty individuals could survive for 24 to 48 hours before they were cleared to escape via the long tunnels leading away from the launch pad. There are loudspeakers and bells—switches that no longer turn anything on. The telephones and wiring have long been taken out and the entrance to the slide chute is filled in with concrete but the rest remains, untouched to the outside world.

Photo Credit: Susan Poulton

Photo Credit: Susan Poulton

If NASA wasn’t trying to create the set of a TV show down here, they probably shouldn’t have installed such creepy lighting. The most unusual touch I noticed was the plastic curtains that could be drawn over the blast doors. It seems like an odd accessory—perhaps better suited for a psychological experiment at The Pearl station?

So imagine it is the year 1970 (conveniently enough, that same year the Dharma Initiative is also being founded) and a fully loaded Saturn V rocket is on the launch pad awaiting flight. A leak is detected and everyone is cleared from the pad. An emergency “red team” is called in to inspect the leak and assess the damage and repairs. After they arrive, they detect the situation is escalating and an explosion of the rocket is imminent. There’s no time to get to a minimum safe distance, so they jump down the heavily waxed slide and shoot out the other end, moving so fast that some of those who trained on the system broke their legs against the back wall a hundred feet away. They rush into the blast room and slam the door behind them, not knowing if they have minutes or hours.

After strapping themselves in, they sit, and they wait—for a possible 1-kiloton, nuclear-level explosion to occur above them.

Or for John Locke to open the hatch. It’s still uncertain which.

 

View a 360 Degree Tour of the Blast Room:

rubber-room-360-tour

Panoramic Photo Credit: Jon Brack

Now, watch your Swan Station Orientation Movie: 

It’s hosted by James Burke of the BBC and not the Dharma Initiative’s Dr. Marvin Candle, but this takes you through the process and how the egress would have worked.

Video Credit: BBC