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
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.

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.

Close-up of above photo
Crudely airbrushed photo of the same cockpit that was released to the public.

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.

Leo Pound, the creator of NASA under the Eisenhower Administration, is credited with the decision to use the KT-135s in all spacecraft and ground based communication systems.

A pivotal moment in the Apollo program was the Apollo 1 fire. Though we tragically lost three astronauts, it is universally agreed that without the fire and subsequent re-design of the capsule we would never have made it to the Moon. The decision by Leo Pound to include the KT-135 as a means to listen to radio transmissions was made at this time.

The idea was so brilliant that "Doc Potter," the head of the engineering department, was heard to exclaim, "This is the most outrageous bullsh*t I've ever heard of!"

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 Joe Jones.

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 at the controls while Apollo astronauts listen to a transmission from Apollo 10.

Radio 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.

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.

Now that almost 50 years have passed since the Apollo program ended, NASA no longer seems to be as concerned with secrecy.

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.

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.

Some historians believe it is a Russian cryptogram.

A "Moon Hoax" nut named Bart Sibrel snickered that the solved Russian cryptogram is (in English), "I'm a coward and a liar and a thief." You can see a video of Buzz Aldrin punching him in the face on YouTube.

It turns out it was just a code put there by NASA photo editing specialists. It indicates the color filter in the enlarging head, the time of the exposure, the temperature of the developing solution and the length of time the print was to be placed in the developer.


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

Gene Krantz (foreground) and Dave Kraft at the Flight Controller's console, November 14, 1969. 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.

The only piece of equipment still working in the spacecraft is the Lafayette KT-135. Jim Hansen (left) has turned to Gene and says, "Try SCE* to Auxiliary." CapCom Andrew Ramsey makes the call, "Apollo 12, try SCE to AUX. 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 KT-135 saved what would have been an aborted 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 Let. In 1971 the Gillette Trac II razor was released, another spinoff of the space program.

* Signal Conditioning Electronics

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!"

Several methods were used to suspend the 40 meter dipole antenna while on the surface of the Moon. These ranged from standard antenna masts to telescoping utility poles. One technician suggested helium balloons. He was reassigned to the role of night janitor.

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 as received
on a KT-135 and recorded by holding a microphone to the speaker.
This is an actual recording made from a real 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.

Here are four factors that influenced the outcome of the "Space Race."

1: Our German scientists were better than their German scientists.

2: We spent ten times as much money putting a man on the moon as the USSR spent on their entire space program.

3: Just 25 years prior to the moon landing, much of the Soviet Union had been bombed into rubble, while the mainland
    USA was unscathed by the war.

4: Without a Lafayette EXPLOR-AIR KT-135 regen radio, the Soviet moon program was doomed to failure. Every one of the
    USSR's mighty N-1 rocket boosters exploded.

Fifty years after the Apollo program, no nation on Earth has been able to land a man on the moon. That includes the United States! Lafayette ended production of the KT-135 kits in 1970, crippling our ability to get back to the moon.

When the Apollo program ended the radios were hastily removed from the remaining spacecraft and thrown into a scrap metal pile. The spacecraft were then sent to various museums without the radio. Most Apollo astronauts, and some NASA officials, kept one of these scrapped KT-135s in their personal collections. Some of these men, 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. One was recently purchased for $220.95 by a retired doctor in Pennsylvania.

It was found to have the letters "N. A. APOLLO XI CMDR" scratched into the chassis. It is now worth over a million dollars.

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 so that it could be replicated on this website.

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.