Moon Rockets

Interesting facts on the Saturn V rockets, from Wired’s Beauty and Madness of Sending a Man to the Moon

The fires on which it rose were not the fire that leaps or licks or plays, the fire of brasier or boiler. They were the focused fire of the metalworker’s torch, given life at a scale to cut worlds apart or weld them together. The temperature in the chambers was over 3,000°C (more than 5,000°F). The pressure was over 60 atmospheres. And still the pumps, their turbines spinning 90 times a second, were powerful enough to cram more and more oxygen and fuel into the inferno. The flames slammed into the fire pits below at six times the speed of sound. For a couple of minutes, the five F-1s generated almost 60 gigawatts of power. That is equivalent to the typical output of all Britain’s electric-power plants put together.

Looking at the generation statistics from Australia’s National Energy Market, our generation capacity in 2019 is only 46GW.

Part of making lunar-orbit rendezvous work was making the spacecraft that actually went down to the moon, the LM, as light as possible. In the original specification it was to weigh just 10 tonnes (11 tons). During development, it put on weight, despite furious attempts first to arrest and then to reverse the process. But it remained pretty tiny. And thanks to the need to carry fuel, oxidizer, life support, batteries, computers and more besides, the LM was noticeably smaller on the inside than the outside. The two astronauts had 4.7m3 (about 165 cubic feet) of pressurized volume between them. That is roughly twice the volume of one of London’s red telephone boxes.

Just goes to show how much energy is required to put such a small volume on the Moon, assuming of course that you want it to come back 🙂