Johnson Space Center – Post 2 of 2

The main reason I stopped in Houston during my early 2017 “Texas Loop” was to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  When manned missions were launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Mission Control there managed the events until the spacecraft achieved orbit around the Earth.  The remainder of the flight was managed by Mission Control here at JSC.

One of the more impressive items on display was a full-size Saturn V rocket.  The Saturn V (5), designed by Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolph, launched all of the Apollo moon missions as well as Skylab, the first American space station.

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Above is a photo of the first stage.  Below are the 5 F-1 engines capable of producing over 1.5 million pounds of thrust (each!) for a total of 7.5 million pounds.  To this day they are still the most powerful liquid-propellent rocket engines ever built.

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I will be telling a story about these engines when I post photos from my visit to the NASA facility in Alabama where these were tested.

Here is the second stage, with 5 smaller engines:

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And finally, the third stage with just one engine. This engine was initially fired to get the vehicle to full orbit around the Earth.  By the time this stage kicked in the vehicle had gained considerable altitude, was traveling at very considerable speed and required much less energy to achieve orbit. This engine was later fired a second time to remove the vehicle from Earth orbit and send it on it’s way to the moon.

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On top of the third stage was a cone-shaped section which contained the lunar lander.

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Finally, a can-shaped service module (gray in this photo) which contained fuel and other equipment to get the spacecraft back to Earth and the command module (brown in this photo) which the astronauts rode in.  At initial launch there was an emergency thruster (escape module, white in this photo) attached to the top of the command module in case it needed to be jettisoned for safety in the event of a launch failure.  The command module itself only had tiny “thrusters” to maneuver it in space and they wouldn’t have had nearly enough energy to get the command module away from the rocket at launch.

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Here is look back down from the “top”

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There are only three full-size Saturn V displays in the world.  This is the only one made completely of flight-certified hardware.  The other two displays contain a mix of flight hardware, mockups and test components.