Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR radio kit

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The Lafayette KT-135 EXPLOR-AIR Regenerative Radio
and its importance to the Apollo Space Program
KT-135 and mission to the moon
Previously top-secret details concerning the role of the Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR KT-135 regenerative receiver in the space program during the Apollo Era have now been declassified. Indeed, the radio was so important to the program that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, was selected not because of his qualifications as an astronaut, but because he shared the same last name as the inventor of the regenerative radio circuit, Edwin Armstrong.

Below are some very rare photographs of the KT-135 in actual spacecraft and the explanation of the secrecy surrounding it. Also explained is how the EXPLOR-AIR came to be known as the KT-135.

NOTE: Not a single representative of NASA or its sub-contractors, or any scientist, engineer, astronaut or government official has come forward to refute any of the evidence presented below!

Wide angle view of the Apollo 15 Command Module. A KT-135 has been installed directly in front of the center couch.

It is a verifiable fact that not a single Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR radio receiver ever failed at NASA during the Apollo moon landing program. During the race to the moon against the Soviet Union, the fact that NASA even used regen radios, particularly the EXPLOR-AIR KT-135, was one of the most highly guarded secrets of the time.

KT-135 in Command Module
Close-up of above photo

Knowledge of the use of the EXPLOR-AIR regen receiver by NASA had to be kept from the Soviets. All photographs released by NASA were edited to remove the radio. To this day, any photographs of a KT-135 radio in any spacecraft are very hard to find and are highly collectible.

Spiro Agnew and KT-135
The crew of Apollo 10 have a belly laugh with Vice President Spiro T. Agnew when he says, "The moon is going broke. It's down to its last quarter! - but it's just going through a phase!" Left to right: Eugene Cernan, VP Agnew, Bruce Knoll and John Young.
In this photo, Cernan places his hand inside his sweater to hide the fact that he is missing part of his left index finger. More about this further down on this page.

Deke Slayton and KT-135
Deke Slayton at the controls while Apollo astronauts listen to a transmission from Apollo 10.

Deke Slayton
The KT-135 has been replaced with a music conductor's BATON in this hilarious edited version. The editor had probably watched "Lawrence Welk" the night before. Despite the fact that no logical person would believe Mr. Slayton is conducting music in this scene, many Americans believe this is the original photograph.

KT-135 in Lunar Module
Inside the Lunar Module. The simplicity and reliability of a three tube radio made it an obvious choice as a receiver. To thwart the Soviets from hearing any radio transmissions, they were "hidden in plain sight." The frequency used was 6210 kHz, the same frequency used by Amelia Earhart. It was easily tuned by the KT-135 on Band C.

Recently released documents from the Kremlin contain no indication that the Soviets ever tuned to this frequency during an American mission to the Moon. The ruse worked perfectly.

Note: In this photo the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) below the radio has been removed so technicians can connect the power and antenna to the Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR.

LM console
Layout of console at Mission Control used to monitor the Lunar Module.

Buzz Aldrin with KT-135
On the left is the raw image from the Hasselblad film magazine, number 36N, published by NASA on on September 25, 2015. On the right is the ridiculous doctored photo released by NASA in the 1970s.

So that the KT-135 would not appear in the photograph, portions of the picture to the left and right of Buzz Aldrin were REMOVED. How this was done remains a mystery.

Mr. Aldrin is seen here making a gang gesture, though it wasn't known at the time that he, along with Eugene Cernan, was affiliated with a gang. The three downward pointing fingers represents the letter M, a gang symbol for the notorious "Moon Boyz." The gang was so vicious that each member had his left index finger chopped off at the knuckle as part of his initiation into the gang.

For no reason other than he was a member of the "Moon Boyz" gang, Buzz would often steal the lunch money from people in the cafeteria, though he had plenty of his own money. Then to humiliate his victim, he'd walk up to the famished person while holding a big tray of food and ask, "How ya like me NOW?"

One time in the cafeteria, he jokingly snuck up behind Jim Lovell, got him in a headlock, and placed the stump of his amputated finger on Jim's eye. He then loudly announced, "Houston, we've had a problem!" When other's turned to look, it appeared that his index finger was buried in Lovell's skull, which caused them to scream in horror, and vomit.

On one of the many occasions Aldrin was admonished because he "destroyed" the spacecraft during a simulation, Flight Controller Steve Bales swears he heard Aldrin reply to him, "Cash me ousside, howbow dat." a half century before the phrase became famous on Dr. Phil in 2017.

When the picture is inverted, a secret code appears. dW7 IX 0770dV. Mr. Aldrin claims he was not the person who signed the photograph and he doesn't know what the code means.

After years of investigating it was found that it was just a code put there by a NASA photo technician. "dW"" is the color filter in the printer head of the photo enlarger, "7" is the exposure time in seconds, "IX 0770" is September 7, 1970, and "dV" is the technician's initials.

Apollo astronauts and KT-135
Astronaut John Young (smoking a pipe) looks on as Jack Lousma swats Vance Brand's hand away from the regen control. On the left, Deke Slayton begins to lunge at the radio, while Ken Mattingly (standing behind Slayton) is about to join the melee. Competition among the astronauts as to who could best tweak the regeneration control was fierce.

The instigator in this particular "battle of the regen control" was the man on the far right, who unbeknownst to the others, is  reproducing the squeals heard on a regen radio by playing a THEREMIN! He would often do this, then sit back and watch the astronauts fight over the radio.

Common hijinks and other mischief included pulling the AC plug during critical mission maneuvers, disconnecting the antenna, and loosening the set screw on the main tuning knob.

During the Apollo 11 landing, Charlie Duke smuggled a small transmitter into Mission Control, a Knight-Kit Home Broadcaster that he built when he was a teenager. He repeatedly said "1202 alarm!" into the microphone, which was then picked up on the various KT-135s around the room, as well as the one aboard the Lunar Module. He then said, "We're go on that alarm!" on the regular radio channel.

This caused a lot of consternation and bewilderment, as nobody knew what it meant or who said it. Neil Armstrong demanded, "Give us a reading on the 1202 alarm," while NASA software engineers frantically looked for an answer. Charlie was trying so hard not to laugh, he "was about to turn blue," which he relayed to Neil after the Eagle had landed.  Later he confessed, generating uproarious laughter and a lot of knee-slapping at mission control.

Charlie Duke
Astronaut humor.
Charlie Duke and the wire leading from the microphone hidden in his hand to his Knight Kit home broadcaster.
Charlie Duke holds KT-135
Charlie Duke in later years, holding an actual KT-135 used at the Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston.

Apollo astronauts in training. Hours of practice are needed to tune a regen radio. Undated photo.

Margaret Hamilton
Katie Wasserman and the original instruction manual for assembling the KT-135.
All of the KT-135 radios were built by women, under the direction of Katie Wasserman. This is the same Katie Wasserman who supplied the manual on Page 5 of this site. The KT designation is actually her name, Katie. NASA ordered 135 Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR radios. As each radio was finished, Katie would put the number on a blackboard. Soon, she was known as "Katie 135." The radio itself came to be called the Katie-135, or KT-135.

To avoid notoriety, she sometimes went by the name "Margaret Hamilton." This was the name of the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. She explained that while pondering a false identity, she was reading a book about the monkeys who were launched in V-2 rockets in 1948. With a picture of flying monkeys in her mind, the Wicked Witch next popped into her head, so she chose "Margaret Hamilton."

Gene Krantz and Lafayette Explor-Air
Gene Krantz (foreground) and Dave Kraft at the Flight Controller's console, November 14, 1969. Gene's KT-135 doesn't have an enclosure. He liked to say, "Let's play it cool."

At this very moment, 52 seconds into the flight, Apollo 12 has been struck by lightning. The fuel cells and all instrumentation in the Command Module are offline or malfunctioning.

This mission is about to be aborted. The capsule and crew will be jettisoned and the huge Saturn V will be blown up. However, the Lafayette KT-135 aboard the spacecraft is still working! John Aaron, who is monitoring the vehicle's electrical system from his console, tells the Flight Director, "Try SCE* to AUX." CapCom Andrew Ramsey makes the call, "Apollo 12, try SCE to Auxiliary. Over."

Aboard Apollo 12, Astronaut Alan Bean hears the call on the KT-135 and toggles the SCE switch to "AUX." The Instrumentation was restored. The Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR KT-135 saved the mission.

In the photo, Dave Kraft can be seen rubbing his face as he remarks, "Man, that was a close shave!" A technician leans forward and asks, "Dave, what if you had a razor that had two razorblades?" The technician was Matt Knoebel, who had a girlfriend named Jill Lett. In 1971 the Gillette Trac II razor was released, another spinoff of the space program.

* Signal Conditioning Electronics

John Aaron and KT-135
John Aaron after making the famous call, "Try SCE to AUX" during the flight of Apollo 12. The only piece of equipment still working in the capsule after the lightning strike was the Lafayette Explor-Air KT-135. John's call, and the KT-135, saved the whole mission.

EECOM consile with KT-135
On the left is the console used by Sy Liebergot during the Apollo 13 mission. Liebergot was the EECOM on duty when the oxygen tank exploded. On the right is the ludicrous altered photo released to the public. The radio has been replaced with a TV screen! Why would Sy Liebergot be watching a TELEVISION SHOW while the lives of three astronauts were at stake?

The deception was so complete that a television screen was also used in the movie "Apollo 13." When Liebergot was asked what he thought of the movie he jokingly quipped, "It was pretty good but they should have had me watching Lost In Space on that TV set!"

KT-135 on the surface of the moon
At the end of the last Apollo 15 moon walk, Commander David Scott performed a live demonstration for the television cameras. He held out a Lafayette KT-135 and a feather, and dropped them at the same time. Because there was no air resistance the feather fell at the same rate as the KT-135, as Galileo had concluded hundreds of years before - all objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass.

Apollo 17 antenna
Several methods were considered to suspend the 40 meter dipole antenna while on the surface of the Moon. One technician suggested helium balloons, claiming that without any wind the balloons would stay permanently in the same place once they were set aloft. Another suggested building a house on the moon with a detached garage, and suspending the antenna between the house and the garage. They were both reassigned to night janitors.

Then in 1972, as both Christmas and the launch of Apollo 17 were approaching, a gifted engineer named James Foster suggested artificial Christmas trees!  The trees were purchased at Woolworth's and came in several segments. They were assembled in place, right out of the box.

They also created some atmosphere.

A recording of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
  This is a real recording made from a KT-135.
  Caution: adult language and F-bombs.

The rest, as they say, is history. The United States of America landed men on the Moon, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics did not.  Without a Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR KT-135 regen radio, the Soviet moon program was doomed to failure.

Lafayette ceased production of the KT-135 kits in 1972, crippling NASA's ability to go to the moon. The Apollo Program was ended, and missions 18, 19 and 20 were cancelled. Without a source of KT-135s any subsequent attempts to land on the moon would have been futile.

When the Apollo program ended, the radios were removed from the remaining spacecraft and thrown into a scrap metal pile. The spacecraft were then sent to various museums without the radio. Some Apollo astronauts and NASA officials kept one of these scrapped KT-135s in their personal collections. Many of these people, astronauts included, have now passed away. When their estates are settled, family members who have no idea what priceless treasures they now possess, put them up for auction on ebay.

I hope you found this entertaining and informative. Check out Carol Maher's KT-135 site  here.

The recording of the first steps on the moon is real. It was received on a KT-135 and recorded on a digital recorder held to the speaker. An AM transmitter was built for the sole purpose of broadcasting the audio portion of "The Onion" version of the moon walk on YouTube. It was transmitted from a laptop to the KT-135 on 2620 kHz.

NASA photos on Flickr:

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.