In this 1961 historical photo from the U.S. space agency, we see the view from inside a hot laboratory looking out. The manipulator arm is in the foreground; the engineer behind the glass, Dan Gardner, is operating it. A fifty-two inch oil-filled glass window protected the operator from the radiation. The oil eliminated all of the window's distortion when looking through it.
There were seven interconnected hot cells at Plum Brook; each with its own function. Cell 1 was over twice as large as the others. It was used for dismantling experiments when they entered the hot laboratory. Cell 2 had an engine lathe to machine materials. Cell 3 was a tensile testing facility with two sets of manipulator arms. Cell 4 was a preparatory area for Cell 5, where a variety of metallographic testing equipment was housed. Cell 6 was used for chemical analysis. Cell 7 had x-ray diffraction and analysis DE:machinery. Each cell had filtered air, water, special vents, an intercom, and floor drains for liquid waste effluent.
For more information browse the Plum Brook Facility Page.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).