Mounds of titanium and steel glinted in the afternoon sun, valves and pipes protruding in all directions like half-formed metal organisms.
In one corner of the warehouse was a twin of the Apollo command module engine that brought Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong back from the surface of the moon nearly 40 years ago. Nearby was the second-stage motor for a Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever use
d in the U.S. space program.
Jonathan Goff, a 26-year-old rocket engineer, climbed atop a mound of titanium spheres once used to store highly explosive liquid oxygen rocket fuel and scanned the area for used rocket parts. "This is definitely a cool place," he said.
For almost five decades, Norton Sales Inc. in North Hollywood has been collecting the nuts, bolts and heat exchangers from the rockets that helped American astronauts shrug off the steely embrace of gravity.
This is where the bits and pieces of America's space program came to die.
Through most of its history, the space junkyard has served as part museum and part fantasy camp for wealthy collectors willing to plunk down thousands of dollars for a piece of an Apollo rocket. Some of its best customers have also been car customizers looking for cheap, spaceflight-grade hydraulic valves.