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“Apollo 18” question

February 21, 2011

So there’s the trailer. The film opens in April. So…one question:

How did they launch a frackin’ SATURN V IN SECRET?!

I’ve only witnessed one shuttle launch. I was in ORLANDO. You could see the shuttle launch easily from FIFTY MILES AWAY.

The Saturn V was much more powerful. It’s been said that fifty miles away, when launched at night, the illumination from the five F-1 engines was bright enough for you to read newspaper fine print. I’ve also heard it was the loudest man-made sound except for nuclear explosions. Minimum safe distance from the launch site was three and a half miles.

There were only two launch pads built to handle the Saturn V – Pads 39A and B, which were converted for the shuttle later. The sound suppression water system alone was amazing. The vehicle required a specially-constructed building to put the stack together (the VAB) and a specially-constructed transporter that also served as part of the launch pad. They only built two of those. They are the very same ones still being used for the shuttle, and were to be used for Ares as well.

Granted, there was a launch pad at Vandenberg AFB in California that was converted, at great taxpayer expense, to launch shuttles into polar orbits. This was done mainly for launching surveillance satellites. It was never used. The Air Force decided to loft those satellites with dumb boosters instead.

Still, Vandenberg is pretty close to Los Angeles. It’s not out in the middle of nowhere. If you could launch a Saturn V from there (and you couldn’t), more people would see it, not fewer.

OK, we’ll find out on April 22. I really hope this movie doesn’t suck.

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2 comments

  1. It’s an interesting topic to ponder, whether or not we went back, should go back, will go back. In my opinion, this movie looks to be about as historically accurate as Forrest Gump. Derives most of its plot from current events, by which I mean “current” in the movie’s setting, but adds some twists to it. Nevertheless it’s one my grandfather will REALLY want to see.


    • There’s one of those internet rumors floating around that there were actually an Apollo 19 and 20…sent to investigate an alien ship. Various versions of the story have the Apollo 19 crew being lost or surviving. Some versions have the Saturn being launched from Vandenburg, painted black to look like a Delta (which were never painted black, and not nearly so large), or from Diego Garcia. That one is interesting because of the difficulty of building a launch infrastructure so far away from everything, and so far south of the equator. (One of the main reasons for locating our launch facilities in Florida was that we had few assets closer to the equator, and the earth’s rotational speed was an assist in achieving orbital velocity. ESA launches are from French Guyana for the same reason.) Most of these rumors are, unfortunately, as full of holes as I expect this film to be. It still could be fun, I guess!



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