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Next Stop: The Moon
April 23, 2010 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch — This clip is raw from Camera E-8 on the launch umbilical tower/mobile launch program of Apollo 11, July 16, 1969. This is an HD transfer from the 16mm original. The camera is running at 500 fps, making the total clip of over 8 minutes represent just 30 seconds of actual time.

From Spacecraft Films.
posted by netbros (88 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit.
posted by brundlefly at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


awesome.
posted by Mach5 at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2010


that is so incredibly cool.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2010


Oh my god. No effin way you'd ever get me on one of those things. That launch pad is roasted.
posted by dabug at 11:00 AM on April 23, 2010


Koyaanisqatsi!

More manned Moon landings, please!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:00 AM on April 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


More posts like this, please.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:02 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like how once the glow dies down enough to see anything, EVERYTHING is on fire.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the most amazing video I've ever seen without question. Thanks you netbros!
posted by Skorgu at 11:07 AM on April 23, 2010


I find this impressive--not only because it's a beautiful shot of an incredibly powerful controlled explosion--but also for its illustration of the hugely complicated science and engineering that went into creating, manipulating, and harnessing that explosion. Whenever I hear someone say that government just plain isn't able to do great things (like provide heath care, of example) I want to yell: But we went to the moon! Do you know how hard it is to get to the damn moon!?
posted by Hoenikker at 11:10 AM on April 23, 2010 [10 favorites]


For those keeping track: that's 30 sec of launch time expanded into 8 minutes and 16 minutes of commentary compressed into 8 minutes.
posted by mazola at 11:17 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't decide what song to crank while I watch this again. Pink Floyd or Boards of Canada? Actually, LCD Soundsystem's "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up" would work nicely.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2010


The seven-seconds that the space shuttle main engines fire on the launch pad, drawn out to 3 minutes and 46 seconds
posted by djb at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


After he stops talking and it's quiet for 5 seconds, it needs one of those stupid ghost faces to pop out and make a really loud screeching sound.
posted by sciurus at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow.

Pink Floyd or Boards of Canada?

The Inspiral Carpets - Saturn Five.
posted by elmono at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


You may be about to see the coolest video you have ever seen in your life.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you like this For All Mankind on Blu-Ray is awesome. If I ever get the cash to go on Richard Branson's spaceship, I'm popping in the Eno and taking off (though I have this horrible dream where I'm stuck sitting next to some guy from McKinsey who spends the entire time bragging about how he cut operation costs *snort* at Rio Tinto over 3% and that this is his third time up, and *snort* space is so fucking awesome, hey do you like Muse? You should listen to Muse on the way up it is awesome)
posted by geoff. at 11:27 AM on April 23, 2010


Man, I hope whoever lit the match under that managed to get out of the way. I'd hate to have that guy's job.
posted by chinston at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny, but I'm having bandwidth trouble and the playback keeps stuttering. So even at 1/20 normal speed, this video is still too fast.
posted by ardgedee at 11:32 AM on April 23, 2010


Commentary is really interesting but I'm gonna have to sit down later and watch it again with Boards Of Canada playing.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:35 AM on April 23, 2010


Oh my god. No effin way you'd ever get me on one of those things.

I grew up watching the Apollo missions, but I've never really been able to fathom the mental discipline and sheer bravery required to sit at the top of one of those rockets waiting to go, knowing what could go wrong and how little control you have. Like Chuck Yeager says in The Right Stuff, "it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that's on TV". I don't blame Captain Cutshaw for bailing out one bit.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2010


Man, I hope whoever lit the match under that managed to get out of the way. I'd hate to have that guy's job.

I'd LOVE to have the job of pulling the plunger on the pinball machine called the IU.

Flight: "Okay. All flight controllers coming up on auto sequence, Booster, how you?."
Booster: "We're go, Flight."
Flight: "EECom?"
EEcom: "Go, Flight."
Flight: "GNC?"
GNC: "Go, Flight."
Flight: "Telcom?"
Telcom: "Go, Flight."
Flight: "Control?"
Control: "Go."
Flight: "Network, got it there?"
Network: "That's affirmative, Flight."
Flight: "Okay."

Booster: "Auto sequence initiated, Flight."
Flight: "Roger."
Booster: "Flight, Booster."
Flight: "Go."
Booster: "S-IVB prepress complete."
Flight: "Roger."
posted by mikelieman at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


"What's our vector, Victor?"
posted by entropicamericana at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2010


but I've never really been able to fathom the mental discipline and sheer bravery required to sit at the top of one of those rockets waiting to go

You could put my ass on one five minutes from now, with zero training or preparation. All I'd need to know is that it's not going to kill me and after 8 eights minutes, I'LL BE IN SPACE.

I don't think that's bravery or mental discipline, just a strong desire to do a particular thing. For instance, you couldn't get me on a submarine if you trained me for years, oh hell no. But space? The MOON? Show me were to sign up and please don't tell me I'd have to kill someone to get there, 'cause I might be ok with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


An idea of how big those engines are.
posted by Skorgu at 11:46 AM on April 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


You could put my ass on one five minutes from now, with zero training or preparation.

The training and preparation (and the knowledge that comes with) are what makes it hard. Anyone can do something impulsively. But to train for years, come to understand the scale and power of the rockets, and know that once the fuse is lit, there's nothing you or anyone can do...and maybe to see a few guys have bad luck and wind up spread over half the state in an accident...and then still get up on top of the damn thing, well, that takes mental discipline.
posted by echo target at 11:51 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I ever get the cash to go on Richard Branson's spaceship...

...I highly suggest picking one up. So choice.
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dude, it's not hard to to realize that you're essentially sitting on a 30 story controlled explosion or in the case of the shuttle, one of three of the most complex devices ever built by by man and the two of them had been destroyed because of stupid mistakes.

Five minutes or fifteen years, whatever, I'm there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2010


As a scientist, I'm consistently amazed by the guts it took to be an early test pilot, astronaut, or work on the Manhattan project. None of these guys had the sophisticated computer models we have, and I can't imagine their safety mechanisms would be nearly as advanced as any modern project would demand.

These guys had a hypothesis (if we sit on this rocket, we'll go to the moon,) and tested it by putting their best men on the tip of 7.6 million pounds of thrust. If it worked, they were heroes. If it didn't, death was almost certain.

(If I told Werner Von Braun what I worried about on a daily basis, he would slap me.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


and maybe to see a few guys have bad luck and wind up spread over half the state in an accident.

To me, the real testament to the work done by every single person involved with the space program is that only three guys died over a nearly thirty-year period and not a one of them because of the rockets themselves (the Apollo 1 crew died in a simulator fire caused by an electrical short). Indeed, the loss of TWO shuttles and a dozen crew members in a much shorter period seems like a much more likely rate of failure for such complex systems.
posted by briank at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2010


I don't think that's bravery or mental discipline, just a strong desire to do a particular thing.

I think it's a more profound part of a person's psychological makeup than that. I mean, I can watch the shuttle missions and imagine how awesome it would be to see the world from orbit. I could even picture doing it in some future where it wasn't so complex and fantastically expensive. But to be Michael Collins, circling the moon alone? I just don't have that. (And yeah, I've seen Apollo 13 at least ten times, and I still cry like a baby when they come out of blackout.)
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2010


I just have to say: FUCK YES.

USA USA!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If NASA ever wants anyone to care about their program ever again, they need to get back to this level of photography and documentation. Every piece of film/video footage from the past 25 years has been absolute junk. Grainy poor vhs quality footage. Uninspiring. A space walk should look as amazing as it is. Not like elevator security footage at zero-Gs.

This old high speed photography, all the apollo footage, is tops.

Amazing!
posted by JBennett at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I want to yell: But we went to the moon! Do you know how hard it is to get to the damn moon!?

with slide rules, no less.
posted by hippybear at 12:16 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thanks for posting this!
posted by nevercalm at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2010


For instance, you couldn't get me on a submarine if you trained me for years, oh hell no. But space?

I suspect that if any astronaut indicated that he was in any way troubled by something as mundane as being a passenger in a submarine, he wouldn't be allowed within a ten mile radius of a rocket.
posted by digsrus at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2010


Dude, it's not hard to to realize that you're essentially sitting on a 30 story controlled explosion

There's always that teensy split second where the control arms let go of the MASSIVE craft and it just hovers there, unsupported, neither falling nor rising that I always just love about these videos.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2010


... just as nice backwards with Dusty Skies soundtrack
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love the moment when all the water on the pad vaporizes at once.
posted by aramaic at 12:29 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> ... just as nice backwards with Dusty Skies soundtrack

That's even trippier than psychedelia or electronica could make it. Great!
posted by ardgedee at 12:32 PM on April 23, 2010


The discipline of engineering is just amazing.
posted by Fiery Jack at 12:39 PM on April 23, 2010


I suspect that if any astronaut indicated that he was in any way troubled by something as mundane as being a passenger in a submarine, he wouldn't be allowed within a ten mile radius of a rocket.

Thanks for killing the dream.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on April 23, 2010


pure pr0n
posted by Burhanistan at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2010


I can't decide what song to crank while I watch this again. Pink Floyd or Boards of Canada? Actually, LCD Soundsystem's "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up" would work nicely.

I just watched it again with DJ Shadow's Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain playing and... um... it... worked really, really well. Wow. Just... wow.
posted by threetoed at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2010


If NASA ever wants anyone to care about their program ever again, they need to get back to this level of photography and documentation. Every piece of film/video footage from the past 25 years has been absolute junk. Grainy poor vhs quality footage.

What, like this one?
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I want that space shuttle footage to be explained by the same guy, to hear what the differences are in how the whole shebang works. The burn on the shuttle rockets looks way, way more efficient/clean, but maybe that's just because of the type of fuel involved?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 1:04 PM on April 23, 2010


If NASA ever wants anyone to care about their program ever again, they need to get back to this level of photography and documentation. Every piece of film/video footage from the past 25 years has been absolute junk.

What? Sure, we haven't had any recent video of people walking on the Moon, but have you not seen the freaking live video taken from the Shuttle as it launches into space? The pictures of sand dunes from the robots living on Mars? The picture of a robotic Mars lander parachuting into the Martian atmosphere taken from another robotic spacecraft? The photographs of Saturn's rings taken from Cassini? Footage of both Russian and American spacecraft docking to the International Space Station? Pictures of a bazillion galaxies that exist in one tiny little sliver of the sky as taken from the Hubble Space Telescope? Top-down pictures of 40 year-old Apollo hardware sitting on the Moon, and pretty much every other photo and video that NASA has released to the press lately?

The problem isn't that NASA hasn't released exciting photographs and video, it's that not enough people get excited over it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on April 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pretty cool what the sliderule generation could do, huh?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:08 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Two things:

1 - That is a totally bitchin' clip.

2 - I would SO go up. I wouldn't hesitate at all. In the slightest.

As an aside, I came within 27 minutes of working for the flight test video group for a large airplane manufacturer, and would have been one of the people that got to mount and use cameras like this one, as well as tucking them into wheel wells, cockpits etc etc etc ... lost the gig when a guy with more seniority that was also getting laidoff took the job.
posted by Relay at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2010


I want that space shuttle footage to be explained by the same guy, to hear what the differences are in how the whole shebang works. The burn on the shuttle rockets looks way, way more efficient/clean, but maybe that's just because of the type of fuel involved?

Yes, the Space Shuttle main engines burn hydrogen and oxygen, so the exhaust is water vapor (plus a whole lot of unburned hydrogen), which doesn't glow very brightly.

The Saturn V first stage burns kerosene and oxygen, and the exhaust contains a whole bunch of unburned carbon particles (soot, basically) that glow very brightly at those temperatures.
posted by FishBike at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Saturn V was about as safe as rockets get. It only had two engine failures over 13 flights and never lost a payload. One even got struck by lightning in flight and went on just fine. Hell, after a few minutes poking around I couldn't find any mention of any catastrophic launch failures by a rocket in the Saturn family. We should have never scrapped that rocket.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:17 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The part that gets me, that makes my jaw drop, is seeing this billowing cloud of fire expanding outward— stop. It stops expanding and then, quicker than it came to be, it gets sucked down towards the engines. Simply amazing.
posted by borkencode at 1:18 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


pointless_incessant_barking wrote: "What, like this one?"

It's amazing that the SRBs complete their journey in a little over five minutes.
posted by wierdo at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2010


40+ year old footage that looks not any less techno-bad-assed than the day it was filmed
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:29 PM on April 23, 2010


It only had two engine failures over 13 flights and never lost a payload.

Had it flow 130 times, things might be different.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:31 PM on April 23, 2010



An idea of how big those engines are.


Thanks for the scale reference, if you've never seen a Saturn V in person, is hard to imagine how damn big this rocket is, for example, each engine nozzle is 12 feet in diameter
posted by limited slip at 1:32 PM on April 23, 2010


I grew up watching the Apollo missions, but I've never really been able to fathom the mental discipline and sheer bravery required to sit at the top of one of those rockets waiting to go, knowing what could go wrong and how little control you have.

Maybe it's because I'm young and don't have any family to worry about (Mom 'n dad are around but they freak out no matter what I do), but the launch would honestly be the least of my concern, were I chosen for such a mission. Even with the grim specter of Apollo 1 (and now Challenger) as a constant reminder of everything that could go wrong, I'd still have plenty of faith in NASA engineers. In fact, those events would assure me even more that the staff doing everything they possibly could to ensure my safety. I absolutely know I have the mental discipline required to sit on board that rocket and not piss myself.

However, I don't know that I have the mental discipline to carry out a mission of such a scale and not fuck something up, thereby ruining everything and killing everybody. The recent Apollo 13 thread really made me think of how I would have acted in a situation like that....

**********

47:39:43 - CapCom: "As of 47 hours, RCS total 1096, quad Alfa 270, Bravo 278, Charlie 270, Delta 278, and the H2 - they gave me the H2's in percent, 76 percent; and on the O2 we have 81 percent. However we show the O2 tank 2 reading off-scale high now. We're quite sure it's a sensor failure. We'd like you to verify it with your onboard reading."

47:40:29 - Lovell: "Okay. Standy by. (pause) Joe, we confirm. Our gage reading is, on the number 2 O2 tank is reading off-scale high now, but Jack just tells me that it was okay when we first looked at it this morning."

47:41:00 - CapCom: "We verifiy that. At 46:45 we had 82 percent and apparently when he stirred the, the cryos, the sensor broke."


...

47:41:08 - Me: "Nah, it's probably just stuck or w/e. I'll just rev the stirring motor a bunch and that should knock the sensor back online"

47:41:11 - CapCom: "Hold on, we need to confirm..."

*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*CLICK*BOOM*

....

47:43:20 - Swigert: "Uhh......Houston, we've had a problem here."

47:43:28 - CapCom: "This is Houston. Say again please."

47:43:35 - Lovell: "Ah, Houston, we've had a problem. (pause) We've had a main B bus undervolt."

47:43:42 - Me: "Yo relax guy, probably just the engine backfiring or w/e. I'll just rev the main booster a bunch..."

**********

Also, you know that hatch that wouldn't close? You bet I'd have gotten it closed. Might have a few dents though.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 1:57 PM on April 23, 2010


More manned Moon landings, please!

More posts like this, please.


Oh, if you insist.
posted by loquacious at 2:11 PM on April 23, 2010


Too talky! Try it this way:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SATURN V.
posted by washburn at 2:12 PM on April 23, 2010


There has been lots of great still photography. Beautiful mindblowing stuff, but the moving images are not so hot. That side mount stationary lift off is incredible, but the image quality is weak. It's a great shot that suffers from weak image capture. Still exhilarating but it doesn't have the beauty in every frame that you get from the old film. Luckily they are getting better these days, but there was a long time where it all looked like crap. They need to handle the program with a good PR leader who makes sure there is memorable footage being released to the media and not just folks sitting in lame jumpsuits under bad lighting inside a craft that might as well be a morning television studio. You really have to look for the good stuff, but every time the footage shows up on the nightly news it's incredibly boring material.
posted by JBennett at 2:14 PM on April 23, 2010


We went to the FL earlier this month and spent a lot of time at the Kennedy Space Center. The scale of the Saturn V is amazing; especially when compared to the Mercury Redstones that were the first American manned rockets. All the more impressive when you realize that most of the rocket is just a big fuel tank; something like 90% of the weight is liquid hydrogen/oxygen/other fuels. Although the Apollo rockets never had a mishap during a real launch, the Soviet Soyuz T-10 exploded during an attempted launch and the crew successfully used the escape tower. I can't find a better video online (I first saw it on Nova many years ago) but this should give you a good idea of what happens when a launch goes wrong.
posted by TedW at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2010


To make up for my being grumpy... here, read this great article by Sean Wilsey on his inside look at NASA. I saw him do a slideshow/reading about his piece a week ago and it was really great. It's about a year old, but I never saw it.
posted by JBennett at 2:27 PM on April 23, 2010


As a scientist, I'm consistently amazed by the guts it took to be an early test pilot, astronaut, or work on the Manhattan project.

...

These guys had a hypothesis (if we sit on this rocket, we'll go to the moon,) and tested it by putting their best men on the tip of 7.6 million pounds of thrust. If it worked, they were heroes. If it didn't, death was almost certain.


You do realize the "best men" you are speaking of were monkeys and dogs, right?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:28 PM on April 23, 2010


Had it flow 130 times, things might be different.

Space Shuttles barely make LEO. That's comparing apples to oranges.

And weren't we sold those shuttles on the premise that they'd fly once a month?
posted by mikelieman at 2:36 PM on April 23, 2010


You could put me on that, guarantee that I would not make it back and I would still be down. I could also handle the training and fancy book-learnin' to actually be beneficial out there too. Its not bravery, on the contrary, its human curiosity mixed with a bit of insanity.
posted by subaruwrx at 2:39 PM on April 23, 2010


The bit I really loved was just after the glow subsides enough to see everything again. Not only is the entire pad on fire, but the water's flashing into steam instantly and being driven off. It looks like the footage has been massively sped up - don't be so silly, steam doesn't move or swirl around as fast as that! - when actually it's been slowed down so far that the real movement would be barely noticeable. So much energy concentrated in one place, and yet completely under control - really, really awesome.
posted by ZsigE at 3:02 PM on April 23, 2010


Koyaanisqatsi!

You know how that movie ends.
posted by ovvl at 3:39 PM on April 23, 2010


TurkeyGlue: As a scientist, I'm consistently amazed by the guts it took to be an early test pilot, astronaut, or work on the Manhattan project. None of these guys had the sophisticated computer models we have, and I can't imagine their safety mechanisms would be nearly as advanced as any modern project would demand.

I don't think they cared. We have this ridiculous obsession with safety in America; we seem to spend most of our lives paralyzed in freaking terror. I mean, fer chrissake, the whole country goes into hysterical paroxysms from one guy with explosive underpants. I can't imagine my grandfather doing much more than maybe raising an eyebrow, perhaps with a few choice words for the asshole.

Even if I knew I had a 75% chance of getting splattered all over the ocean, I'd still ride on one of those. A 25% chance of going to the moon would be totally worth the risk. I doubt most astronauts would be willing to go that far, but I'd bet nickels to dollars that they'd take enormously higher risk if it meant they could fly more often. Exploration is risky, that's the nature of the beast, and even if the odds were far worse than they are, I don't think there would be any shortage of qualified volunteers.

Engineering for safety really only works for things that are well-understood and routine, and space travel is neither. We spent a substantial fraction of the total budget on safety analysis, and we still lost two shuttles. Without that obsession, we'd likely have lost even more.... but gotten a heck of a lot more shuttles up there, for a lot less money. And I don't think they'd have had any trouble manning those flights.
posted by Malor at 3:52 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the early 1960s (1962-63, I think) my father was in the US Army, stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL. During this time, my mother worked at Chrysler on the Saturn project. I don't know what her title was, but she describes her job as sort of a punch-card wrangler. They had a computer that handled the most complex calculations, and she was the one who managed the time-sharing and data input. Somewhere in a shoebox, she has snapshots of Saturn rockets and Pershing missiles, and of people like Wernher von Braun.
posted by workerant at 4:02 PM on April 23, 2010


In addition to just the sheer physical size of the thing, here's one of the comparisons that helps give a sense of just how much power is at work: One engine of a Boeing 747 produces the equivalent of about 55,000 horsepower. That is about the same amount of power as drives the fuel pump of just one of the F-1 engines of a Saturn V.
posted by FishBike at 4:16 PM on April 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Imagine if all those resources -- those resources and that inspiration that we had forty eight years ago ("we choose to go to the moon in this decade", Sept 1962) -- were exerted with today's computing, engineering and manufacturing technology to do something just as similarly fantastic, important and utterly compelling .... like cut carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 50% ... not because it is easy, and not because it is hard, but because if we don't, we're utterly fucked.

Oh Jack, I miss you.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:22 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Saturn V was simply a marvel of engineering and audacity. It was America at its best, regardless the reasons why we did it.

The Shuttle, I would argue, was at least if not *more* audacious than Apollo for what it was expected to do and the complexity of its design. That we have only lost two vehicles, both of which were ultimately due to managerial hubris and neglect, is proof of a higher being. Challenger was lost due to management forcing a launch decision outside of normal operating parameters and Columbia due to a similar pattern of 'acceptable risk' with the external tank foam and the orbiter's thermal protection system.

For its immense complexity, the shuttle has performed brilliantly over its life and I find it to be a shame that it is only now, after 30 years, that we have developed significant confidence in the systems: understanding them, their true limits and how to make them better.

The original idea that the shuttle could be turned around between missions in 14 days and we'd fly every 7 days is of course laughable now, but considering that the Gods of Apollo designed it after the triumphs of the early 70s, many thought it plausible. It was a true research and development effort that pushed the boundaries every bit as much as Apollo did.

That we're dumping it all for some vague mandate is a sin and shame. I sometimes feel that this nation has completely lost its balls.
posted by tgrundke at 5:57 PM on April 23, 2010


tgrundke wrote: That we're dumping it all for some vague mandate is a sin and shame. I sometimes feel that this nation has completely lost its balls.

I fully agree with your second sentence. It seems we have lost our balls.

I disagree that it's a shame we're dumping the shuttle. It is indeed extremely complex and a marvel of engineering, but it's not well suited to any particular mission due to the many competing design requirements coming from NASA itself and the military.

Saturn V and the other Apollo hardware were built for one purpose: going to the Moon. From this flowed its success at its task and its relatively low complexity. Obviously, it's all still rather complex, but no more so than was necessary when building a rocket of that scale.
posted by wierdo at 7:18 PM on April 23, 2010


Saturn V and the other Apollo hardware were built for one purpose: going to the Moon.

That may be an oversimplication. The Saturn V was built to lift heavy and bulky cargo. Skylab had a larger interior than any of the individual modes of the ISS because it was a retrofitted Saturn V stage (I just love the video of the astronaut jogging around the drum just like in 2001). There is (or could certainly be if we imagined it) utility in massive rockets like that today, but cost and reusabilty are key factors.

Just think how many bad ass space cities we could have overhead right now using evolutions of Saturn rockets if we didn't have to pay for all that scrapped metal and mangled corpses in Iraq.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's curiosity, insanity and bravery - consider what one of the astronauts in The Right Stuff was thinking as he sat atop 5.6 million lbs of fuel waiting for ignition: every single piece of this rocket WAS BUILT BY THE LOWEST BIDDER. Titanium balls, there.
posted by Quietgal at 9:22 PM on April 23, 2010


every single piece of this rocket WAS BUILT BY THE LOWEST BIDDER.

That again may be an oversimplification, given that top companies like "Boeing, North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft Company, and IBM" were among the key contractors. It wasn't like there were many companies who could do this kind of thing in the 1960s (even though admittedly corners were no doubt cut with subcontractors). But I see that "lowest bidder" story used as if it were axiomatic when I think it was more something like gallows humor used by astronauts to laugh away tension. Very little expense seems to have been spared with these things.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 PM on April 23, 2010


OK, this thread is way too long for me to try to add to (or correct) all of the questions and speculation et cetera, so let me just give you this. Hopefully enough people will actually see this way down here.

http://www.enginehistory.org/SSME/SSME3.pdf

This PDF is a 5 page document that describes in incredible detail the six second sequence that the space shuttle main engines (SSMEs) go through during ignition. It'll take a while for you to get the picture, but you'll see that they really have to go through fantastic contortions (basically blipping the throttle on a millisecond timescale) to get the thing up to full thrust without blowing itself to bits. And it's actually readable for someone that doesn't have a deep technical background (I'm guessing :) ).

The SSME is smaller than the Saturn's F-1 and produces less total thrust, but is far more complex. This is because it is far more efficient, and designed to be reused. The F-1's were use-once-and-throw-away.

The space shuttle is a truly monumental engineering achievement. Enjoy it while you got it. My bible for viewing shuttle launches is right here -- heed his advice. I'm heading down in 3 weeks for STS-132.
posted by intermod at 10:05 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan wrote: "Skylab had a larger interior than any of the individual modes of the ISS because it was a retrofitted Saturn V stage (I just love the video of the astronaut jogging around the drum just like in 2001)."

Since you mentioned SkyLab, here's a couple of videos about Skylab and one about the Space Shuttle.

IMO, the Shuttle should never have been built for carrying cargo on the scale that it does. Some cargo (parts, experiments, whatever), sure, but large things should have always been launched by expendable vehicles. It's just cheaper, and as you noted, we can fit bigger things on them.

Sadly, to get funding support from the military, NASA had to build it bigger than would have been ideal. Unfortunate that the Shuttle hasn't ended up flying many military missions, since we bear the burden of the extra cost with every Shuttle launch.
posted by wierdo at 1:34 AM on April 24, 2010


literally awesome. thanks for posting.
posted by peterkins at 2:31 AM on April 24, 2010


If NASA ever wants anyone to care about their program ever again, they need to get back to this level of photography and documentation.

No, they need to do something other than send a few scientists up to hang around in Earth orbit for a few months of watching crickets fuck in low gravity. The geeks have always been looking, but the Nascar crowd will start looking again only when test pilots are flying crazy missions to other worlds and planting flags on them. The thing is, that Spaceman Spiff stuff isn't really needed for most missions. It's good PR (if you aren't looking at the cost), but robots and remote sensors are good enough for watching crickets fuck a hundred million miles away.
posted by pracowity at 3:44 AM on April 24, 2010


Intermod, if it hasn't been done already, that enginehistory.org site is worthy of its own FPP.
posted by TedW at 12:47 PM on April 24, 2010


Once the rocket is out of the picture, it's very easy to forget (by which I mean: I forgot) that the film is still showing events at 1/16th actual speed. What looks like great gentle clouds of billowing water vapor was in fact a terrifying enormous raging cauldron from Hell.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:20 PM on April 24, 2010


TedW: go for it! I'd never find the time, or courage, to do a proper FPP.
posted by intermod at 8:04 PM on April 26, 2010


First of all, great post, and a wonderful film. Lord, I love rockets. But.
Imagine if all those resources... were exerted with today's computing, engineering and manufacturing technology to do something just as similarly fantastic, important and utterly compelling .... like cut carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by 50%
Find an application for warfare and it'll get done.

I mean, I like the sentiments here about the intrinsic worth of space travel and exploration but the reason—and the only reason—that the 20th century space programmes of the US and USSR were economically viable at all was that the technology was already being developed for war. People forget that on both sides, the space programme's budget was dwarfed by the missiles budget for the Cold War, that in reality as well as bureaucracy, Space was a subset of Defence. Kennedy's were fine words, but looking back, it's hard not to hear them as "we do these things because, frankly, since we're spending so much money planning to hit targets on this planet, we might as well hit the moon too".

It's hard to put a human on the moon, but it's even harder to design a system that will reliably put a very heavy, dangerous to handle warhead on a target, a potentially moving target, on the other side of this planet. It's hardest of all to design systems that will launch those missiles a) from mobile launchers, b) that fly, drive on dirt roads, and sail underwater, even under the Arctic ice, c) in the strictest secrecy, d) in any weather, e) in constant communication with each other and with central command systems (did I mention the first iterations of Internet networking?) and f) do all of this while the enemy's equivalent system is busy destroying it. Compared to those engineering challenges, the ones faced by NASA and the Soviet cosmonaut agencies were trivial.

I mean, the Sea of Tranquility wasn't going anywhere, it wasn't anybody's secret, and it wasn't shooting back. That the job was done with primitive computers and slide rules is an indication of the task's relative simplicity compared to the engineering tasks of even the missile warfare of the 1970s.
Just think how many bad ass space cities we could have overhead right now using evolutions of Saturn rockets if we didn't have to pay for all that scrapped metal and mangled corpses in Iraq
Don't blame Iraq. Blame the recent fashion for non-proliferation, test bans and nuclear disarmament.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:59 AM on April 27, 2010


Don't blame Iraq. Blame the recent fashion for non-proliferation, test bans and nuclear disarmament.


Or you could blame fucked up defense-market-based priorities.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2010


Well yeah. The Cold War was a misallocation of resources so colossal that we got the space programme as an unintended benefit.

It's worth keeping the boast about Reagan's presidency that it spent the Soviet Union into bankruptcy in mind in discussions about the benefits of space exploration against war.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:49 PM on April 28, 2010


Is it faster than the new Opera?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:03 PM on May 6, 2010


This appears to be the wrong thread for that question!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:04 PM on May 6, 2010


Yes, and it is larger than a breadbox.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:38 PM on May 6, 2010


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