They were built as a shelter in case of a space rocket explosion

Rubber Rooms, the most extreme and reserved bunkers at the Kennedy Space Center

The space race has been fraught with danger. One of the biggest risks was explosions from large space rockets.

NASA's armored vehicles of military origin at the Kennedy Space Center
The two isolated errors that saved the Columbia shuttle from a disaster in 1999

This risk became extreme with the Saturn V rocket, built by NASA for the Apollo program that took man to the Moon. These rockets had a height of 110 meters. A large part of the rocket interior was occupied by liquid fuel, necessary to propel it into space. If that fuel had exploded, a huge fireball of up to 500 meters in radius and more than 1,000ºC would have formed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Due to the large size of the Saturn V rocket launch tower, in the event of an accident it would not have been easy to evacuate the astronauts and NASA personnel who were on the rocket and in that tower . However, NASA created an infrastructure to try to protect their lives in the event of an accident.

Under Kennedy Space Center's two large launch pads, Pad 39A (which debuted in 1967) and Pad 39B (which had its first launch in 1969), NASA built bunkers underground that would have served as shelterfor astronauts and launch tower personnel in the event of an explosion.

These bunkers, known by NASA as "Rubbers Rooms", had a blast room with a steel dome that floated on rubber insulators. They had the capacity to house 20 people during a 24-hour period. The bunker had seats in a circle around a metal cage (inside which there was a ladder leading to the escape tunnel) and 20 red capsules containing fire blankets. There was also a toilet and carbon dioxide cleaning equipment.

The explosion room would have been closed with a large armored door. This door was accessed from an antechamber with rubber-padded walls, which is what gave these bunkers their name. This antechamber was accessed by a long slide that descended from the launch platform. This slide would have been sprayed with water to facilitate the descent of the astronauts and tower personnel.

Once the dangerous situation was overcome, the exit from this tunnel would be through a long underground tunnel more than 300 meters long, which led to the outer perimeter of the launch platform.

According to NASA, once the Apollo program these shelters were abandoned, but they ended up finding other occupants:"hroughout the years nature found its way inside, including raccoons, snakes, birds and even a bobcat and opossum." Starting in 2009 and with the end of the space shuttles, a restructuring of these rooms for future use began.

The photos you can see in this article are from the Rubber Room of Pad 39B, which was closed more than a decade ago because it had lead paint. In 2012, Spaceflight Now published a series of photos of the Rubber Room of Pad 39A, which is still accessible (that platform is now used for SpaceX launches). It should be noted that very few people have visited these rooms, which are NASA's most extreme and secretive bunkers.

About these rooms, you can see this excellent video published by Primal Space last year, which recreates them on a computer explaining how they are constructed and how they would have worked in the event of an accident:


Photos: NASA.

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