When President Kennedy issued the challenge to put a man on the moon before the 1960s were over, the nation’s best and brightest responded with a colossal spacecraft. Then in July of 1969, Neil Armstrong took that famous “small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The machine that got him there, the Saturn V rocket, is an engineering marvel, perhaps unrivaled in human history. The rocket dwarfed everything that came before, and nothing built after has surpassed it. Here are 14 things you didn’t know about the one and only moon rocket.
1. The Saturn V was the brainchild of Dr. Wernher von Braun
A German, von Braun worked for the Nazis during World War II creating the V2 rockets fired on London. He later surrendered and came to the United States following the war, designing the Saturn V for NASA.
2. The Saturn V stands 363 feet tall
That's about 60 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty.
3. At around 6.5 million pounds fully fueled, the Saturn V required a massive crawler-transporter to carry it to the launch pad
Max speed: one mile per hour.
4. The Saturn V consisted of three stages, with each stage being discarded as its fuel was spent
Atop these sat the rocket’s “cargo,” which for the Apollo missions included the service, command, and lunar modules for landing on the moon. (Pictured is the third stage opening up to release the lunar module.)
5. The five massive Rocketdyne F-1 engines in the rocket’s first stage produced over 7,500,000 pounds of thrust
That's the equivalent to the power of 30 Boeing 747 jumbo jets!
6. And to produce said thrust, the Saturn V’s first stage burned fuel at the astonishing rate of 13 metric tons per second
Yeah. Per second.
7. All that power was used to accelerate the giant spacecraft to speeds in excess of 25,000 mph
That’s about 15x faster than a rifle bullet.
8. The Saturn V was launched 13 times
Twelve for Apollo and once to place the Skylab space station in orbit. Not once were any crew or cargo lost during flight.
9. The Saturn V took 24 men to the moon
Three of them twice! This short list of moon men includes some of the most legendary names in NASA history. (Pictured left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.)
10. The Saturn V remains the only spacecraft capable of taking human beings to another celestial body
11. It also remains the largest and most powerful rocket ever built with a load capacity (to low earth orbit) of 260,000 pounds
In comparison the Space Shuttle could only carry 63,500 pounds.
12. The Saturn V gave mankind our first glimpse of the earth the way it truly is
Small and beautiful.
13. Only 65 years separated the Wright brother’s first flight and Apollo 11’s landing on the moon
It truly was one giant leap.
14. The last Saturn V was launched in 1973
Since then human space travel has been confined to simply orbiting the earth.
David Burbach is a motorcycle journalist by day and a space fanatic the rest of the time. You can find his sporadic Twitter musings @welivefreephoto.