This project started quite some time ago (the first picture I could find was from March of 2020, but it was already pretty far along by then). My first exposure to little free libraries was ~15 years ago. Thought it was neat and my wife and I had always talked about making one someday. Fast-forward to more recent times and another house and we again encountered one. Combine this with having our first kiddo a few years later and the rekindling of my interest in making/tinkering and you get to the origin of the idea: It had become a fact that we would make one and that it would be space-themed in some way. The specific idea of modelling it on the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is lost to time, but once it came to mind, it made so much sense. The actual building is basically a giant box, so no crazy shaping required. What additional details are required are all fairly simple and easily made via a 3D printer (which I had newly acquired around the time I was working through the idea). During pre-COVID times, I started on design and construction of it. We had some neighbor kids across the street that also had a love of space and we’re just a few houses down from the neighborhood Elementary school: it was the perfect location! 

I was able to find a 3D model of the building online that was to scale and I had previously found a pretty decent model of the Saturn V as well. I ended up scaling everything down to what my printer could handle; at the time I planned the Saturn V to be a single piece, so it’s height was scaled to the max height for my printer and everything else followed suite. I also ultimately found a 3D model of the tower and crane made for model rockets, but which translated well to my use (with some modifications). Unfortunately, I didn’t really document things during this early phase, so I don’t have links for these sourced items; regardless, my sincere thanks to the folks that made them and gave me these great starting points on the models!

Most of the cosmetic things were contained in the models I found, but all of the ‘interactive’ parts had to be fully designed, printed and tested myself. While there were a lot of components I could have just bought (and they would have likely worked better: looking at you drawer sliders!), because my 3D printer was still shiny and I was having fun designing things, I decided to essentially print EVERYTHING. The big benefit was I didn’t have to force existing things into my design: I could just make exactly what I wanted/needed. For the electronics side of things, at the time I was using Particle Photons for my projects and that’s what I utilized in my initial design. Ultimately, I ended up with this functional bit to go inside the library along with a PCB I had printed for the controller:

The sequence of the whole interactive bit is made up of a couple parts: A sliding door (plexiglass/acrylic) opens, the ‘crawler’ (with the rocket, pad and tower) slides out, the crane rotates and then the Saturn V rocket lifts up (or launches). (A close observer will notice that the orientation of the tower/rocket is reversed from how it would actually be while inside the VAB; I oriented it this way so that the rocket would be fully visible through the open bay door versus just seeing the back of the tower.) All of this is done via small servos (and a larger one for the pad) as well as a whole bunch of limit switches to keep track of where everything actually is. I also added some individually addressable LEDs to the tower to illuminate the rocket, some ‘dumb’ LEDs for the library itself and a sensor to tell whether the library door is open/closed. I made reasonable progress and then COVID hit. As it became extra-clear that schools would be closed for a while and our neighbor kids ultimately moved away, I lost motivation to finish it up (my son was only a few years old, so he wasn’t reading or terribly interested in it yet). At the time I was almost ready to start painting and...

Read more »