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Racing to the Moon

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The Saturn V, developed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center under the direction of Wernher von Braun, was the largest in a family of liquid-propellant rockets that solved the problem of getting to the Moon. A total of thirty-two Saturns of all types were launched; not one failed.

The Saturn V was flight-tested twice without a crew. The first manned Saturn V sent the Apollo 8 astronauts into orbit around the Moon in December 1968. After two more missions to test the lunar landing vehicle, in July 1969 a Saturn V launched the crew of Apollo 11 to the first manned landing on the Moon.

Saturn V launch Another Saturn V launch And still another Saturn V launch
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NASA#: 68-HC-842
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NASA#: 69-HC-761
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NASA#: 71-HC-982
Saturn V launch
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NASA#: S69-39527
aft end of Saturn V with people for scale
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NASA#: MSFC 8-61888


Saturn V Line ArtThe three-stage Saturn V was taller than a 36-story building. It was the largest, most powerful rocket ever launched.

With a cluster of five powerful engines in each of the first two stages and using high-performance liquid hydrogen fuel for the upper stages, the Saturn V was one of the great feats of 20th-century engineering. Inside, the rocket contained three million parts in a labyrinth of fuel lines, pumps, gauges, sensors, circuits, and switches--each of which had to function reliably, and did.

Fifteen Saturn Vs were built. The Museum's collection includes three Saturn Vs exhibited at NASA visitor centers in Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

1:48 scale model

Transferred from NASA

Size: 111 m (363 ft)
Payload to orbit: 129,300 kg (285,000 lb)
Payload to Moon: 48,500 kg (107,000 lb)
Manufacturer: Boeing Co. (prime)
1st stage: five F-1 engines
Propellants: RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid oxygen
Total thrust: 33,360,000 newtons (7,500,000 lb)
Manufacturer: Rocketdyne
2nd stage: five J-2 engines
Propellants: liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen
Total thrust: 5,560,000 newtons (1,250,000 lb)
Manufacturer: Rocketdyne
3rd stage: one J-2 engine
Thrust: 1,112,000 newtons (250,000 lb)
graphic: exploded view of Saturn V design
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Pointer A 1:15 scale Saturn V model and launch tower and a first stage F-1 engine are displayed in the Apollo to the Moon gallery upstairs.

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