The tests are the stuff of legend: Towns complaining to NASA because of the noise. Seismographs quivering hundreds of miles away. China cabinets disgorging their contents when all five first-stage engines fired at once.
You remember Saturn V. Maybe. If you're old enough. It was the Babe Ruth of rockets, bigger than life and way cool, a teeth-rattling, jaw-dropping, 363-foot, fire-breathing behemoth that could shoot three guys -- always guys -- at the moon and hit the target every time.
More than 31 years have passed since Saturn V last flew, but the legend lives on -- in decals, shoulder patches, stickers, photographs, videos, Web sites, scale models and stories that people tell their grandchildren. Even today, Saturn V symbolizes the pinnacle of U.S. space exploration.
But until relatively recently, retirement has not been kind. Saturn V's are enormous, awkward and not built for life on Earth, and while NASA installations quickly claimed the leftover rockets, they didn't care for them. The carcasses -- sun-bleached, moldy, rained-on and spattered with bird-droppings -- lay neglected for decades.
Times, however, are changing. The Kennedy Space Center has its own Saturn V museum, and plans are underway to move the two other remaining Saturn V's indoors and restore them. Creative thinking, a Clinton-era preservation fund and old-fashioned guilt are finally giving America's greatest rocket its due.