Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: Five for (Saturn) five

How many Saturn V rockets have reached the surface of the moon, despite the facts that the Saturn V was the largest rocket ever constructed and that it was built specifically so that NASA <em>wouldn't</em> have to send Apollo launch vehicles to the moon?

Thirty-five years ago -- May 14, 1973 -- saw the end of an era: The last Saturn V rocket ever to fly was launched from Cape Kennedy. By almost every measure, the Saturn V was the most powerful rocket ever to fly. The Soviet N-1 was a bit wider, and the Soviet Energia was theoretically capable of more thrust, but no rocket has ever been taller, heavier, or pushed more payload into orbit. Perhaps most impressively, every single flight of the Saturn V was a success -- no Saturn V ever failed to deliver its payload into orbit. Fairly impressive for a rocket that NASA originally didn't want to build.

The Saturn V was designed explicitly for the Apollo program, following a mission profile that NASA engineers were initially very reluctant to embrace. There were three competing plans for landing a man on the moon during the early days of Apollo: Direct Ascent, Earth Orbit Rendezvous, and Lunar Orbit Rendezvous.

Direct Ascent involved launching a rocket that would have dwarfed the Saturn V, sending the whole thing to the moon, landing it on the moon, and then dragging some or all of it back to Earth. Earth Orbit Rendezvous suggested sending two craft into orbit separately, joining them above Earth, and then going on to land on the moon. This was deemed more efficient, but technically more complicated, as no one had docked two ships in Earth orbit at the time.

Lunar Orbit Rendezvous sketched out a plan for sending a pair of docked vessels into orbit around the moon, one of which would drop to the surface and then return, rendezvousing with the half still in lunar orbit, which would then return to Earth. This was infinitely more complex than either of the other options, but was by far the most efficient, as it involved dragging the least amount of fuel and equipment into and out of the moon's gravity well. Thus, reluctantly, the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous plan won out for its energy conservation benefits.

Despite being the efficient choice, Lunar Orbit Rendezvous required construction of the most powerful rocket in human history. Moreover, even though the entire point of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous plan was that you wouldn't need to take an actual rocket to the moon, that doesn't mean no Saturn V has ever touched down on the lunar surface. In fact, several have.

HOW MANY SATURN V ROCKETS HAVE REACHED THE SURFACE OF THE MOON?

Get the answer.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

37 comments
guy
guy

"every single flight of the Saturn V was a success " What about Apollo 13? I know that the launch was a success but if you are going to call S-IVB a Saturn V rocket, for the sake of getting a rocket to the moon, then the failure of the S-IVB of Apollo 13 should count against the success record of Saturn V.

dryd
dryd

"no Saturn V ever failed to deliver its payload into orbit." Didn't one of them explode on the pad, killing all crew members? On another note: "the Saturn V was the most powerful rocket ever to fly. The Soviet N-1 was a bit wider," Have you seen this getting around on email: *INTERESTING HISTORY LESSON. Railroad tracks. * * The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheel s would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe(and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. * * Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a Specification/ Procedure/ Process and wonder 'What horse's ass came up with it?' * *You may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' asses.) Now, the twist to the story: When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. ** * *The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass. * *And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything....and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else*

farid.ahmad
farid.ahmad

correct me if i'm wrong but Apollo 13 did'nt make it to the moon

DonAK
DonAK

Not a quibble, but you missed the opportunity to insert the word "selenological" or maybe just "selenology" into that last sentence. Ah, the fun of alliteration :-)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Makes you want to think twice about having NASA control your ship from the ground. Deliberately crash landing rockets, thankfully they try NOT to do that to the solid parts of Earth.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I still remember the first man on the moon broadcasts - sitting mesmerized in front of the news from the moment of take-off until the moment of return. What a thrill it was to see those men on the moon, and to hear Neil Armstrong speaking from what - as a child - was an infinity of distance from my home, school, heck my life! You gave me a great reminder of that certain feeling that comes about when some hard-fought after moment comes manifest. Wow. keyboard gremlins

guy
guy

Ok, Ok I take it all back. I was very young at the time and I thought the Service Module formed part of SIVB. My point about including it is that the question was "How many Saturn V's got to the moon?" For the sake of the argument, SIVB was counted as a Saturn V rocket. Therefore since Apollo 13 didn't achieve its mission, (and I counted the SM as the SIVB) I blamed the Saturn V as a whole. So, I was wrong on both counts. I can live with that. Ive been wrong before and I'll probably be wrong again. For the record, I was 7 when Neil landed on the moon and it was the most exciting time of my childhood. Even though I wasn't then old enough to understand what an achievement it was, I look back now and think Wow! I sometimes shudder to think that we got to the moon using the technology that we had then. The onboard computer wasn't much more than a pocket calculator. Amazing. And as for Apollo 13, in my opinion it was the greatest rescue effort ever. If anybody that was involved with anything to do with getting us to the moon in the 60's is reading this - congratulations. I so take my hat off to you.

dryd
dryd

The exact phrase used was, "no Saturn V ever failed to deliver its payload *into orbit*." That's and important distinction, don't you think? Nothing to do with landing on the moon.

swenger
swenger

On Apollo 13 the S-IVB stage performed flawlessly (or the Command and Lunar modules would never have made it around the moon and back). The failure was in one of the oxygen tanks in the Service Module, which always stayed attached to the Command Module until just before atmospheric reentry. Those were fantastic days when every flight was an adventure and everyone knew how risky it is to venture beyond the atmosphere.

dennisbagenstos
dennisbagenstos

In addition to the other comments that it was a cabin fire, not a rocket explosion, the rocket for this mission was the Saturn IB, not the Saturn V. 204 was to be an earth orbit mission only, so they used the smaller IB. They also used the IB for the Apollo 7 launch, the first actual launch of Apollo. The Saturn v was used for subsequent moon missions.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the Romans didn't have ancient war chariots that were generally used in combat. The chariots they did have were fairly rare, most combat troops moved on foot and most of their gear was carried on the back of horses, mules, or people. Also, the roads were so well built with various layers of stone, that they didn't have ruts. The ruts all occurred much later when wagons were being built to carry around specifically sized cargoes, like wine and beer barrels, etc. Everything else until then is logical, but that bit about the Romans just doesn't match the historical knowledge.

mark.schreiber
mark.schreiber

Nope. I think it was Apollo 1 that had a cabin fire which killed the astronauts. Only the command module was burned.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

to come home without stopping and the other stages were dealt with as per program.

slurpee
slurpee

In that fun sentence, seismically, generally is defined as having to do with earth events (although I was able to find one dictionary that also states that it has to do with events like earthquakes on other bodies besides the earth)...sigh. Given that one, I can't really say I found an error.... :(

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

I worked for Boeing on the "moon racket"(*). We (Boeing)were not only responsible for the design and construction of the S-IC prime booster, but also for project management and 'vehicle integration' of the Saturn V. As I recall, we and NASA referred to the total package as 'Saturn V', including the Apollo capsule and LEM. Therefore, every LEM that touched the moon would also count. (*)"Moon Racket" as in noise, not scam. ((-:

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

I also watched most of the mission and spent several weeks after building a cardboard lander in my bed room and using my sisters as aliens. Although I subbed Armstrong out for superman, as the cape and pj's were way cooler.

dryd
dryd

Another interesting angle to the moon landings was how the TV signals to and from Apollo was routed through the Parks Dish, here in Australia. If you get the chance, have a look at an Australian movie called "The Dish". It's quite funny and also quite an accurate account of what happened in Parks during those heady days. Here's a quick link: http://outreach.atnf.csiro.au/visiting/parkes/looselybased.html My hats of to *all* involved in the Apollo flights.

dryd
dryd

I think you are right m8. Some of those Roman roads are still there today. But they were like main roads, what about all the other roads?, and as to whether or not they used other carts with the same wheel spacing as well, I just don't know. It's a good rave though don't you think? (-: I'm not attached to it's veracity one way or the other.

dryd
dryd

That's right, something to do with the pure o2 atmosphere and the hatch locking mechanism design wasn't it? I was 8yo. when I watched Apollo 11 land on the moon, so my memory is a bit hazy.

seanferd
seanferd

They still had to crash their Big Can to keep Lunar orbit safe.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

playing at moon landing. We had those trolls. Empty push-pop containers were perfect rockets as I recall. Oh, I'm giggling as I type. Thanks for the remembrance. :) Oh - and 9v batteries with a rubber band were perfect jetpacks! etu

dryd
dryd

Or at least that's what it said after my last post. Well anyway, I remember that too. The picture started out quite bad, then all of a sudden got better. Probably as pointed out in the movie, the moon rose a little further above the horizon as seen for Parks, and they were able to switch from an offset to a direct signal. I still find it hard to believe that NASA could have taken the movie the wrong way. Of course the locals were going to feel a bit intimidated by such an all inspiring organisation as NASA. And well done again to them for the Mars landing. I hope I live to see the day they put a person on the red planet. I will be 77 years old in 2037, so I may be in with a wing and a prayer. Best of luck to them and everyone here.

dryd
dryd

18 Ext. Outside the Fortress Of The Unspeakable One. Night. They land the boat at a crumbling jetty and climb up onto the beach. LISTER: Why I ever agreed to go for a stroll in Rimmer's psyche I will_never_ know. They come upon a sign that reads: SWAMP OF DESPAIR. CAT: Aw terrific. This gets better and better. LISTER: Is it just me or are those frogs saying, "Useless?" FROGS: Useless, useless, Rimmer, Rimmer. CAT: Hey look at this! You've got a huge great blood sucking leech on your neck. He pulls it off and examines it, and shows it to LISTER. CAT: It's got a human face. LISTER: It's Rimmer's mum! KRYTEN: Here, come quickly. I think I've found a metaphor. LISTER: A what? KRYTEN: Look at all these gravestones. LISTER: "HERE LIES SELF-RESPECT, DIED AGE 24". KRYTEN: They're all aspects of Mr. Rimmer's personality which are dead. "GENEROSITY, DIED AGE NINE." "SELF-CONFIDENCE TAKEN FROM US, AGE TWENTY-TWO." LISTER: "HONOUR, GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, DIED AGE TWELVE." CAT has found a small one that reads CHARM. CAT: Look at this. This one's minute. LISTER: Check this one. This one's freshly dug. KRYTEN: Who's it for? The tombstone for an unfilled grave reads, HOPE.

guy
guy

The Dish is one of my favourite movies of all time. I even purchased it and watch it again from time to time. I love the Aussie's dry humour - has me giggling every time. The thing that really gets me though is when the transmitted picture flickers when they re-adjust the antenna - I distinctly remember seeing that when I watched the landing live, so long ago. Well done you Aussies. Thanks for bringing us the pictures.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I agree with your analysis, however, the early reviews from the USA, when it was released there, they took the scenes concerning NASA as taking a shot at the NASA HQ people being very controlling - I know that wasn't quite how it was, but that's how the reviewers saw it at the time. They bagged the movie and it didn't go well there. Europe loved it. Regarding what's out there, well, all I can say is - I'm Having Kryton send you one of those pushy intelligent toasters and one of the scutters is being programed to follow you around pinching your arse when you stand still for more then 1.5 seconds. - That should keep you on your toes.

dryd
dryd

Deadly Ernest: The Dish The frightening thing about The Dish is they told the truth and many of the Americans who saw it thought it was a fiction comedy making a joke of the way NASA worked. Adrian: That's hard to believe. The Main American character and NASA employee in the film, comes across as intelligent, sensitive, and caring, with a polite sense of humour. The only mistake that NASA makes is giving the space craft's coordinates as if Australia and the dish was in the northern hemisphere. Which is a very easy mistake to make. It's an Australian that forgets to bleed the injectors on the diesel UPS motor after servicing them. And a bunch of young country kids in the band that play "Hawaii 5 O", thinking it's the American anthem. Among lots of other silly stuff. How anyone could take that as a bad reflection on NASA, I really have no idea. Even though it didn't quite happen that way, it's fair enough to assume that NASA would pretty much let the people who normally run the dish do the job of tracking Apollo and bouncing the TV signal back to the States, with little interference from them. As for 'One Small Step', yes, it's amusing. But being a Red Dwarf fan, I pretty much go along with the idea that 'we are alone in a godless universe' and the only thing out there is a bunch of floating smegging rocks. IMHO, All the rest is wishful thinking. I'm happy to be proved wrong on either or both scores though. But I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, unless 'The God Particle' lives up to it's name that is. (-:

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

The frightening thing about The Dish is they told the truth and many of the Americans who saw it thought it was a fiction comedy making a joke of the way NASA worked. Want a laugh about the moon landings, try a nice small piece of fiction called 'One Small Step,' at: http://www.asstr.org/~ebywater/

seanferd
seanferd

I imagine the confusion of Americans in Europe trying to figure out where the first floor is.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

It wasn't lost, the Aliens took it with them when they left! :D Actually, I find quite amazing the devices and designs from way back that are still being discovered, or properly worked out. The Roman odometer, the "Antikithera Device", and, of course, all manner of war machines. How long was it before we got Greek math from Muslim world? Hindu/Jain math? Zero? ------------------------------------ And what amazes me, is that it took all that time to work out the major problem with the Roman numeral system was that it was missing the number zero .. centuries later, the Americans start building skyscrapers and they lose the number 0. (and 13 too.) Les.

seanferd
seanferd

It wasn't lost, the Aliens took it with them when they left! :D Actually, I find quite amazing the devices and designs from way back that are still being discovered, or properly worked out. The Roman odometer, the "Antikithera Device", and, of course, all manner of war machines. How long was it before we got Greek math from Muslim world? Hindu/Jain math? Zero? Then these religious /political types have the gall to tell us how amazing it is that Christian monks "preserved" this knowledge. Maybe they did, but heaven forbid the Ruling types allow the knowledge out.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

The government built roads, many of which are still around and still in use, these were main roads and built specifically for the fast movement of troops, news, and materials. the rest were the casual roads created by people moving about, usually on foot, mule back, or horse back - sometimes on home built carts. Kind of like the dirty tracks that get created in off road areas. The Romans did have some rules on carts for use within the cities, but these were more along the lines of 'no bigger than...' so they didn't block traffic. It was a good looking rant, but those type aren't any good unless they can stand up to a factual analysis. What's interesting is all the engineering and technology that got lost in the middle ages due to intolerant power hungry religious rulers. No one knows for sure exactly how many of the major engineering feats of those days were done, and things like Greek Fire - all lost technology. Take a guess when the first automatic door was built? Bet you got that wrong, it was in used well before Christ was born. It worked on steam, and a simple steam rocket was in use at the same time. So why did it take over a millennium for civilization to create a decent steam engine? Ugh religious politics.

dryd
dryd

Should have read "pure oxygen". Sorry about that chief. (-:

Constantdrone
Constantdrone

We were in northern ontario around that time and my dad had ammassed a large colection of tv tubes, to ensure the best picture for saturday night and hockey night and canada. They were off limits for the most part and he would dole out the duds to me and two other younger brothers. Then there was the red ryder bb gun incedent of that same summer.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

And my birthday. I guess I woke up about 6am to find my mum in front of the telly, watching Armstrong step out on the moon. My birthday present ,, a Major Matt Mason doll set. I've forgotten my last birthday .. I will never forget that birthday. Les.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

geez. The warm fuzzies strike! Matchbox cars and American Bandstand and HeeHaw! lol Thanks.

bbbaldie_z
bbbaldie_z

Did you ever pretend they were spaceships? Cool looking electronic stuff within, often a "nose cone" point, and those little wires sticking out the back making up some high-tech propulsion system... Come by my Boomer nostalgia blog (http://www.irememberjfk.com) for more stuff about being a kid in the 60's, including my own remembrances of that magical July 1969 evening.

Editor's Picks