Back in January, for my 24th birthday, my thoughtful wife decided to throw me an astronomy-themed birthday party. In addition to the saturn-shaped cake she baked me, she gave me a book on astronomy and the piece de resistance, two tickets to the Johnson Space Center near Houston, Texas. (We also watched Apollo 13). Little did she know, this birthday celebration would launch her husband's into a newfound fascination with all things astronomy, including the NASA space program. Although this interest has waned a bit since January 18, I have decided to make this post in honor of an upcoming momentous event in history: the final launch of the space shuttle, which is currently set to happen next month. With funding scarce, the future of the space program is uncertain right now, which, although understandable, is unfortunate. So, in honor of the spirit of adventure and discovery . . .
The Redstone rocket. This rocket, designed by German scientist Wernher Von Braun, was patterned after the German V-2 rockets used in WWII. It carried Alan Shepard, the first American in space, into sub-orbital flight on May 5, 1961. When asked by reporters what he was thinking about just before liftoff, Shepard replied, "The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder."
Mission Control Building.
One of the most magnificent displays of technological power ever conceived by man, the Saturn V rocket is still to this day the tallest, heaviest and most powerful launch vehicle that has ever been used. It is the only vehicle to have ever transported human beings beyond low-earth orbit, carrying all 24 Apollo astronauts to the moon over a period of four years. Above are the five massive F-1 engines from which the rocket derives its name. Each rocket has a flow rate equivalent to 413 gallons of gasoline per second. Below is a detail of one engine.