the saturn five had eight million moving parts -- 12/5/18

Today's selection -- from The Eagle Has Landed by Jeffrey K. Smith. The gargantuan Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 to the Moon had 8 million moving parts:

"On the morning of July 16, 1969, nearly 1,000 NASA engineers and technicians crowded inside the launch control center at Cape Canaveral, prepared to send Apollo 11 to the Moon. The Saturn V rocket was their 'baby,' having been pieced together in the eight-acre Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Unlike the Soviets, who transported their rockets in stages via rail cars, and then erected them on the launch pad, the entire Saturn V, nearly four-stories tall, was driven to the launch pad aboard a giant crawl­er transporter. The gargantuan vehicle, a diesel-powered adapta­tion of a strip mining shovel, traveled the 3.5 miles between the VAB and the launch pad over a 110-feet-wide gravel road, at the glacial pace of one mile per hour.

"Launch pad 39A featured twin octagonal-shaped concrete pads with steel deflectors, designed to divert the first stage en­gine flames into trenches lined with a ceramic surface that could withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degrees (F). As a safety pre­caution, the launch pad was located at Cape Canaveral's isolated Merritt Island, which was surrounded by uninhabited beaches and swampland; experts calculated that a fully-fueled Saturn V rocket, exploding on the launch pad, would generate a 3,000-feet-wide fireball and an explosive force equivalent to 500 tons of TNT. ...

 Saturn V launch vehicle (SA-506) for the Apollo 11 mission liftoff at 8:32 am CDT, July 16, 1969

"Those who witnessed Apollo launches were invariably awed by the rocket's raw power. Shock waves generated by the Saturn V engines literally made the Earth move.

"The rocket, 364-feet tall and weighing 5.8 million pounds (as much as a Navy destroyer) consisted of three stages, and housed 91 separate engines and 8,000,000 moving parts. Thirty-five feet in di­ameter, the gigantic first stage was powered by five F-1 engines that burned 4.5 million pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen. The second stage, 30 feet in diameter, housed five smaller rocket en­gines that consumed one million pounds of liquid hydrogen and oxygen. The third stage (S IV B), 22 feet in diameter, contained a single J-2 engine fueled by 192,495 pounds of liquid oxygen and 39,735 pounds of liquid hydrogen. The three-stage rocket's 11 en­gines were capable of generating a combined 8.7 million pounds of thrust. ...

"[At the launch of Apollo 11] the melodic voice of NASA Public Affairs Officer Jack King heightened the suspense: '12, 11, 10, 9, Ignition sequence start, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 ... '

"At 9:32 a.m. the first stage engines of the Saturn V lifted Apollo 11 skyward....

"Consuming three tons (3,500 gallons) of liquid propellant per second, the first stage rocket generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust, and within a quarter of a second, the astronauts were accel­erated from zero gravity to G-4. The launch was the roughest part of the entire mission, as reflected in Michael Collins' radio mes­sage, 17 seconds after blast-off: 'The beast is felt. Shake, rattle, and roll! We are thrown left and right against our straps in spas­modic little jerks. It is steering like crazy, like a nervous lady driv­ing a wide car down a narrow alley, and I just hope it knows where it's going, because for the first 10 seconds, we were perilously close to the umbilical tower.'

"The first stage of the Saturn V rocket burned for 2 minutes and 40 seconds, launching the spacecraft to an altitude of 200,000 feet. At 9:34:40 a.m., the first stage was discarded and fell 45 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. ...

"The second stage booster burned for six minutes, lifting Apollo 11 to an altitude of 606,000 feet, before it was discarded at 9:41: 12 a.m. Three minutes later, the third stage rocket fired for the first time, and launched the spacecraft into orbit. Just 11 minutes and 42 seconds after lift-off, Apollo 11 was in an elliptical, 103.6 by 101.4-nautical mile-orbit, zipping around Earth at 17,400 miles per hour."



Jeffrey K. Smith


The Eagle Has Landed: The Story of Apollo 11


New Frontier Publications


Copyright 2012 Jeffrey K. Smith


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