Thursday, July 16, 2009
Apollo 11: the Saturn V
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were launched to the moon by a Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever used in a space mission. It may even have been the most powerful machine ever used for anything, unless you count blowing up abandoned coral atolls as a use, because the power it expended propelling men and machines into space was greater than that of the first atomic bombs. It was 363 feet tall, 33 feet in diameter, and weighed 6,699,000 pounds. Each of its three stages was built by a different company, which some critics said was a recipe for a disaster, but it worked almost perfectly each of the 13 times one was launched. This immense machine was needed to give the Apollo spacecraft the velocity they needed for "translunar injection", that is, to enter the orbital path that would take them to the moon. Relative to the earth, they were traveling about 23,000 miles per hour.