In 1946, President Truman made a decision to bring to the United States the German scientists who worked on the rocket program for the Nazis. The decision was not without concern that Germans who participated in a war against the United States and its allies were to come here, but it was necessary, since maintaining an edge over the Soviet Union during the Cold War was the priority.
The program was called Operation Paperclip and it brought more than 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers to the country for employment following the aftermath of World War II. One of the Germans was space architect and aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun. Von Braun was employed in the Army’s rocket design division, where he worked on the the creation of the Jupiter series of rockets in 1957. Following the Jupiter series was Juno I, the rocket that launched the U.S.’s first satellite. It was followed by the Saturn V.
Von Braun called the Jupiter series “an infant Saturn” and used Jupiter series rockets as a foundation for the design of Saturn V. The Saturn rocket series consisted of 5 rockets named C-1-C-5. It wasn’t until 1963 that C-5 was named Saturn V. Von Braun and his team worked at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama on Saturn V improving its thrust, developing a less complicated operating system, and creating a better mechanical system.
The Saturn V was approved to be used for the Apollo program which would send humans to orbit the moon. In 1967 the rocket launched successfully. It wasn’t until Apollo’s 11th mission in 1969 that famously landed astronauts on the moon. The Saturn V rockets also landed on the moon with a crew on the Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Saturn V also launched the Skylab space station into Earth orbit in 1973.
Standing 365 feet tall, the Saturn V rocket successfully took men to the moon and back 13 times over a period of four years (1969 – 1972) without any loss of crew. Starting with JFK’s famous speech “we will be able to bring a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.”
The liquid propelled rocket has a number of stages. The first, second and third stages, denoted as the ‘Launch Vehicle Stages’ were used to keep propelling the rocket further into space.
The first stage produced 7.7 million pounds of thrust, which was needed to escape the Earth’s gravity. When it reached an altitude of 38 miles, it would separate and then burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The second stage would burn at a range of about 115 miles, where it would then separate from the launch vehicle and float into space.
When the rocket reached a speed of speed of 24,500 mph it also would depart leaving the Command Module and the Lunar Module, known as the ‘Spacecraft’.
The command module would orbit the Earth while the astronauts walking the moon and it was the famous Lunar Module that would land them there.
The lunar module was an amazing piece of equipment in itself. It’s decent stage would land allowing the astronauts to open the hatch and crawl down the ladder to the moon’s surface, but it was the ascent stage that would fire up and blast them back to the command module.