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Saskatchewan in Space Part 1: Claybank Bricks

We would like to thank the University of Saskatchewan Space Team, University of Saskatchewan Computer Museum, Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site, Dr. Dafydd Williams, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Douglas Lindner and Ken Mayhew for providing information and/or photos for these blog posts.

Saskatchewan is probably not the first place that comes to mind when people discuss space exploration, but there are a number of Saskatchewan connections to this topic! One of the WDM’s curatorial priorities is the collection and preservation of Saskatchewan innovations. We work toward this priority through projects like the Saskatchewan Patent Index and the Fuelled by Innovation exhibit at the WDM Saskatoon, where about half the vehicles are Saskatchewan-made.

Over the course of five weeks we will share five website features about space exploration and Saskatchewan innovation. Each feature will highlight one person or object with ties to Saskatchewan. From bricks made in Claybank to computer technology developed in Saskatoon to chainmail made in Swift Current, Saskatchewan has plenty of ties to space exploration!

Our first feature in the series is about Claybank bricks.

Claybank Bricks

Brick produced at Claybank Brick Plant. Click on image to enlarge

Southeast of Moose Jaw near Avonlea is a small hamlet called Claybank. Just outside of the hamlet is Claybank National Historic Site, an old brickmaking plant first established in 1914. This plant produced two main types of brick: face bricks, used to adorn the facades of buildings, and fire bricks. Face bricks from Claybank were used in buildings such as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon.

Fire bricks from Claybank, made from local clay, were known for their incredible heat-resistant qualities. These bricks were used in locomotive fire boxes and Second World War warships. In 1955, the Claybank Brick factory was purchased by an American company, the A.P. Green Fire Brick Company from Mexico, Missouri.

After the purchase by A.P. Green Fire Brick Company, bricks from Claybank were used in a NASA launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launchpad was approximately 30 feet deep, and fire bricks from Claybank (purchased via A.P. Green Fire Brick Company) were used in the lower layers of this pad to provide support and heat insulation.

The launch of Apollo 8 on December 21, 1968 from NASA launchpad 39A. Click on image to enlarge

The bricks were installed in NASA launchpad 39A in 1965. Spacecraft launched on this pad include the uncrewed Apollo 4 and Apollo 6 spacecraft, and the crewed Apollo 8 spacecraft (the first crewed spacecraft to reach the moon; it orbited the moon ten times but never touched down on the lunar surface).

According to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, all crewed Apollo-Saturn V shuttles from Apollo 8 (launched December 21, 1968) until January 1986 launched from 39A, with the exception of Apollo 10. The launchpad was severely damaged during the 2008 launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Top image: Apollo 9 launch from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A on March 3, 1969

By: Kaiti Hannah, Curatorial Associate

Read Part 2 – DevelNet >>

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