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  Saturn V: Three flights canceled, two rockets left

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Author Topic:   Saturn V: Three flights canceled, two rockets left
asdert
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posted 02-02-2006 07:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Browsing through the NASA websites to get some information about the Saturn rockets, I came across what seems to me like an inconsistency. Maybe you can help me get a clearer view about this.

Three moon flights (planned to use Saturn V rockets) were cancelled during 1970: one on January 7, two on September 2.

Why are only two Saturn V (SA-514, SA-515) left unassigned?

Some people state that the Apollo 18 rocket (SA-513) was used for Skylab instead, but I can't believe that it is an "instead" (and SA-513 was assigned to Skylab before Apollo 18 was cancelled).

In early days, the Apollo Application Program (AAP) planned to use several Saturn V rockets, but already in June 1968 they came down to one Saturn V. The final plan of one Saturn V for Skylab and three Saturn IB for the crews was agreed in July 1969.

At the same time, NASA announced the plans to have moon flights until Apollo 20.

The number of 15 Saturn V rockets was fixed already in August 1968.

So, in fact, there is one rocket missing. Am I wrong? Where is my mistake?

asdert
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posted 02-02-2006 07:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some information I found:

sschreib
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posted 02-02-2006 03:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sschreib   Click Here to Email sschreib     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Saturn Vs were:
  • Apollo 4 - unmanned test flight
  • Apollo 6 - unmanned test flight
  • Apollo 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 - manned flights
  • Skylab Workshop boost to orbit
  • two flight ready Saturn Vs - on display at various locations.
Total: 15

A great book that details every stage produced is Apogee Books "Saturn".

asdert
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posted 02-05-2006 06:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Scott, but my question was not about the 15 Saturn V that were produced. I knew that and mentioned it it the original post.

My question was: Why are only two Saturn V (SA-514, SA-515) left unassigned?

The NASA plans of the second half of 1969 were for 16 Saturn V, not 15. Did NASA hope that they would get more money in later years, so that they could afford to have the 16th Saturn V built until 1972? Pretty close, seeing the lead times for construction.

CosmicKnight
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posted 02-05-2006 09:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for CosmicKnight   Click Here to Email CosmicKnight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know about the SA- numbers, but aren't there three unflown Saturn Vs on display? One in Florida, one in Huntsville, and one in Houston?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-05-2006 11:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Saturn V in Huntsville was never built to fly — it was a fit-check model for testing the pad and facilities.

As for the discrepancy, might the answer be caught up between the cancellation of Apollo 15 and the subsequent renumbering of missions? If you count Apollo 15 as well as Apollos 18, 19 and 20 then I believe you are including one more mission than NASA had scheduled. (Though the schedule of cancellations as put forth above appears to negate this idea.)

Alan Lawrie, who wrote the book on Saturn production would likely be able to answer this question easily. He's a member of this forum. Alan?

asdert
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posted 02-06-2006 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you, CosmicKnight and Robert for your answers.

No, it cannot be a matter of the numbering. Whether you say that Apollos 15, 19, and 20 have been cancelled (the originally assigned numbers) or whether you say it has been 18, 19, and 20 (the unflown numbers after renumbering) doesn't matter. There have been three missions cancelled.

asdert
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posted 02-06-2006 01:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another thought that might be misleading:

Initially, the D-mission (that later became Apollo 9) was planned to use two Saturn IB: one for the crew (AS-207) and one for the LEM (AS-208) [source].

However, this plans have been modified (during 1967/68?) in favour of one Saturn V launch (AS-504). The mission was performed in March 1969, so that in summer 1969, when the missions until Apollo 20 have been announced, it must have been clear, how many Saturn rockets were available.

AlanLawrie
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posted 02-06-2006 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AlanLawrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My understanding of the cancelled Saturn Vs is as follows.

By 1969 missions up to Apollo 20 utilising up to Saturn 515 were still on the table. In January of 69 Skylab was planned to be launched on an S-IB with talk of a permanent space station launched on a Saturn V in 1975 and serviced by a space shuttle.

A dry Skylab, launched on a Saturn V was proposed in May 69, approved in July 69 and contracts awarded shortly afterwards.At that moment in time they had too many missions and not enough Saturn Vs. So a few months later, in January 1970, the situation was rectified with the cancellation of Apollo 20, the transfer of that Saturn to the AAP and the confirmation of the end of the Saturn V production after 515.

The budget situation got worse and in September 1970 Apollos 15 and 19 were cancelled, the numbering rearranged and we had Apollo 17 as the last mission. This left two sets of hardware, 514 and 515, which can still be seen today (or actually two weeks ago in my case!).

Incidentally, regarding the status of the Huntsville Skylab. This is made of the S-IVB-211 stage with the J-2 engine removed. For those that are interested, that engine has now found its way to the Herman Oberth museum in Germany.

asdert
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posted 02-07-2006 03:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asdert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Alan, thank you for this valuable information! So I was right that there actually has been an inconsistency during the second half of 1969.

NASA had decided to use a Saturn V for Skylab, although the funding was not yet approved. A contract to build an AS-516 couldn't be awarded without being sure that money came in.

This inconsistency was removed in January 1970, when Apollo 20 was cancelled, and one of the Saturn V (SA-513) was immediately assigned to Skylab, while SA-514 and SA-515 were planned to be used for Apollos 18 and 19.

Tykeanaut
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posted 05-14-2013 01:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the hardware was already there for Apollo 18 and Apollo 19 why didn't NASA continue with the moon landings? A lot of the finance had surely already been incurred?

Jim Behling
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posted 05-14-2013 02:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Didn't want to spend anymore. Also didn't want to incur any additional risk much like the shuttle program was ended.

mach3valkyrie
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posted 05-14-2013 02:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Too bad the money had been spent to build flight articles, and let them rot on their sides for so many years until private sector money could restore and preserve them. For my money, I'd have mockups in place of the real deal and two more moon missions in the books.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-14-2013 03:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What about mockups in place, another mission in the books, and a crew that was killed when the Saturn V exploded on liftoff?

As Jim mentioned, the concern wasn't only money, but the real sense within NASA that a loss of vehicle was looming.

mach3valkyrie
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posted 05-14-2013 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Point taken. However, if you're talking about a Saturn V first stage failure, weren't the chances of that rather low compared to a spacecraft malfunction on or around the moon?

Also, the crew had a way to get off of the Saturn stack with the Launch Escape System.

All I'm saying is that the hardware was built, the crews were ready to fly, and everything was in place for mission support. Lack of funding stopped the program for whatever underlying reasons.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-14-2013 06:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mach3valkyrie:
All I'm saying is that the hardware was built, the crews were ready to fly, and everything was in place for mission support.
Taken out of context, one might think you just described the end of the space shuttle program. And just like the shuttle, budget and safety concerns conspired to see Saturn V retired.

Headshot
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posted 05-14-2013 06:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If one were to take stock of the Apollo Lunar program before September 1970, when Apollos 15 and 19 were cancelled, it is no wonder that both Project Apollo and NASA executives were getting very concerned.

We almost had two astronauts crash into the moon on Apollo 10 because of an incorrectly set switch.

We almost lost the Apollo 12 mission due to a lightning strike during launch.

A center engine of the Apollo 13 second stage shut down early during launch

Apollo 13 suffered a near catastrophic explosion en route to the moon.

Management was just getting plain tired of dodging bullets that, at best, would terminate a mission, or at worst, kill some of the crew. They had NASA's future to think of, Skylab and the shuttle were on the near and distant horizon.

I think it is little wonder that they decided to cut their losses and cancel two missions. (Not the decision I would have made, but that is irrelevant.) In retrospect, I am surprised that they did not cancel more lunar missions.

I am also certain management believed their decision was more than vindicated as they had to dodge even more bullets on Apollos 14 and 16.

Orthon
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posted 05-14-2013 10:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Orthon   Click Here to Email Orthon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dodging bullets? Wasn't this a program of exploration? How many people were lost in the westward expansion? If you are going to look at it that way, maybe we shouldn't have gone to the Moon at all. What you are saying is exactly what is wrong with America today.

Tykeanaut
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posted 05-15-2013 02:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If their decision was purely down to the risk factor then Skylab, ASTP, and the shuttle programme would have never happened.

garymilgrom
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posted 05-15-2013 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Orthon you are applying 2013 values to decisions made in the early 1970's. Can't do that.

Tykeanaut the risks of missions to LEO were far less than lunar voyages. Rescue options were greater too. Again an unfair comparison.

Try to put yourself in a NASA manager's position during those times. NASA had beaten the Russians, landed several lunar crews and returned them safely, had explored different areas of the moon and survived an unimaginable failure in Apollo 13. There was very little upside and a huge potential downside to more flights, as much as us laymen sitting on the sidelines might have wanted them. With hindsight I believe they made the right decision.

Headshot
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posted 05-15-2013 08:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gary, succinct and well-written.

Few remember that Apollo did not start out as a program of exploration. Kennedy's goal was to beat the Soviets in some aspect of space exploration. Landing a man on the moon was the most dramatic of his three choices. It wasn't until later that people started saying, "as long as we're there on the moon, what else do we do?" So like it or not, lunar exploration was only a by-product of Apollo's original goal.

Now my somewhat on-off topic rant.

The problem is that Apollo was a government program and Congress expects only positive results from the money it spends. It does not want to allocate money for failures. Do not forget that back in the '60s (as now), there were many non-space related programs vying for our tax dollars. There will always be a cry to close down a program that resulted in dramatic failure (lethal or otherwise) and spend that money elsewhere. Remember the Ranger Program of the '60s? With our risk-aversion mentality of today, Ranger would have probably been cancelled before the highly successful Block III versions ever flew.

But Orthon's comment about what is wrong with America today is both true and false. If one wants risk-aversion, just look at the Soviet Union/Russia. They are essentially flying the same missions, with very similar Soyuz spacecraft on the same launch vehicles as they were doing 40 years ago. Meanwhile we have flown Apollo spacecraft on many different kinds of missions; built and flown the space shuttle; and are now developing a new Orion spacecraft.

But the Nature of the Beast is that whenever there is a dramatic, public failure in a government program, especially space, there will always be the Mondales, Reagans and Bushes (W only) who will not want to stay the course in the face of adversity.

Orthon may not like this, as I do not, but it is our fault. We elect candidates to the White House, the Senate and the House. Do we make our views known to our elected officials? Had there been a massive public outcry over the cancellation of Apollos 15 and 19 in 1970, does any older, sorry ... seasoned, reader here believe that Nixon would NOT have ordered NASA to fly those missions?

As much as I like collectSPACE, whining about it in these forums may make you feel good, but accomplishes little. On that note I ask, how many readers actually contacted the president, their Senators, or their House members to protest the cancellation of the Shuttle Program or the Constellation Program? How many cS readers have let our leaders know that they will back them up and to continue our course of space exploration in case of a catastrophe?

If I have bored anyone with this rant ... Sorry about that.

Jim Behling
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posted 05-15-2013 12:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Orthon:
Dodging bullets? Wasn't this a program of exploration?

No, it was a projection of soft power. A way to beat the Soviets.

Jay Chladek
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posted 05-15-2013 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apollo was pretty much treated with having a beginning, a middle and an end even during the early days when it was created. It was NOT an open ended program. George Mueller knew that back in the early 1960s when he created AAP as he knew that if work didn't begin then on a followup program to Apollo, they were going to run a serious risk of having a period with NO manned launches and a good portion of the civil servant/contractor team being disbanded. He wanted to try to keep that team intact. AAP was an attempt to try and prevent that down period.

By the time Skylab was getting close to flight, Administrator Paine was considering it the springboard to NASA's future as he recognized that while lunar exploration was a good thing, it was still a bit limited in what it could do with Apollo architecture and felt it would be better for NASA to focus on an Earth orbit based infrastructure with AAP developments to do research for what should come after that. But even his plans fell on deaf ears in the Nixon White House and Congress and Paine left office not long after. So the big plans to fly multiple labs and possibly send one into orbit around the moon never came to pass and the Saturn 1B production line was shot down not long after the Saturn V one was.

Ultimately, the decision to either fly Skylab or the last two Apollo missions came down to funding and the workforce required to support them. There was only money to do one or the other, but not both. With Skylab, it wasn't just getting the laboratory launched, but also support for up to FOUR Saturn 1B launches (three plus the rescue craft if it was needed). Doing the math, flying four launches of one lab and three crews mean that the workforce gets employed for longer than doing JUST two more lunar missions.

mode1charlie
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posted 05-15-2013 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
No, it was a projection of soft power. A way to beat the Soviets.

Bingo. It was a (very successful) display of American technological dominance. That's what drove it - science was a side benefit.

Blackarrow
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posted 05-15-2013 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
... There was very little upside and a huge potential downside to more flights, as much as us laymen sitting on the sidelines might have wanted them. With hindsight I believe they made the right decision.

With hindsight, it WOULD have been the right decision IF the lessons of Apollo had immediately been put into designing and building a follow-on lunar exploration and exploitation programme, perhaps to be implemented by the 1990s. (I admit this sounds better looking back from 2013 than looking forward from 1972!)

onesmallstep
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posted 05-21-2013 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The decisions surrounding Apollo have always been a push-pull between the political and the scientific arenas. As much as Apollo 11 was the end result of Kennedy's challenge to NASA (and in a way, to the Soviets as well), it was all downhill from there, in terms of getting funding for the grand follow-on programs of a shuttle, space station and Mars mission.

People, as a rule, have short attention spans. So it should come as no surprise that when Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon, many thought this was it, goal met, onto the next destination. A more far-sighted approach would have been to keep the Saturn production line intact pending an alternative booster to power any Mars mission. Then again, politics and funding in the 70s virtually guaranteed this would not come to pass.

And now, all we have to show for the incredible engineering effort in building Saturn Vs are three stuffed and mounted rockets and two recovered engines in a museum in Kansas. Good thing von Braun is not around to see NASA's state of affairs now. One begins to think that SLS stands not for Space Launch System (NASA's next heavy-lift booster) but Sadly Longing for Saturns.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-21-2013 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There never was a real push-pull between science and politics. It was always and only politics. Science took what it could get.

Once Kennedy shot down Webb for expanded scientific exploration of the solar system, the debate ended. Apollo was a political tool, one that Kennedy sought to modify, if not end almost as soon as he announced it.

So when the Eagle landed on the moon, regardless of the public's reaction, Apollo was over. The goal was achieved and anything that followed was just the remnants of a large program rolling to a slow halt.

Maybe, just maybe, had the Soviets still been fully in the race, pushing to do more on the moon or go elsewhere, it could have picked up again, but as they were not, and a fallen president's overly-romanticized vision was fulfilled, there was no point in continuing.

Wernher von Braun knew this, which is why he advocated to Congress to cancel all the Apollo flights after Apollo 14 and push on to a Mars landing in 1982.

But there was no political mandate to go to the Red Planet, and quite frankly, going to the moon on sortie missions didn't at all prepare anyone for going to Mars. The challenges are (pun intended) worlds apart.

Neil deGrasse Tyson may have been right when he suggested that space enthusiasts need to stop pining for the return of the Saturn V and Apollo. It is only dragging us down. Celebrate the success of the program, but keep it in the past.

onesmallstep
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posted 05-21-2013 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
True enough, Robert, but the past has always been the prologue for the future. Sometimes, one key decision or event happens to change the course of history. We can look back with 20/20 hindsight, and say for good or ill things turned out the way they did, but we always (hopefully) accept the outcome to learn from the past.

Take the decision to fly Apollo 8 around the moon. Many have said that the mission essentially showed the Soviets the US was ahead in the moon race and that their efforts (sending only unmanned Zond flights around the moon) were behind. That they could only muster a sample-return mission (and a failed one at that) around the time of Apollo 11 shows that they conceded the moon race. The death of Korolyov and the setbacks to the N-1 rocket also figured into this.

Yes, many of us on this forum grew up during Apollo and experienced the wonder of the 'Golden Age' of spaceflight, so perhaps we should be forgiven our nostalgia. Not to take anything away from the achievements of the astronauts and engineers who built the ships that took us to the moon, we accept that it was a cold, hard political calculation — despite the cost of some brave lives in getting there.

As for von Braun's feelings, I'm sure he would have been realistic and pragmatic about the choices NASA made before he died; but he would be saddened to see the US space program going in fits and starts as it does now, with changing goals and no spaceship at the dock, waiting to leave for a new destination. Hopefully, political will and vision are not mutually exclusive and plans and visits to other worlds can be made like in the time of Apollo. That would be a fine epilogue indeed.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-21-2013 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think were von Braun alive, he'd blame Apollo for the difficulties we're having now.

Remember, he wasn't in favor of going to the moon when we did. He wanted first to build the space shuttle and space station, gain our experience working in low Earth orbit and then venture outwards.

Sure, he didn't walk away when the U.S. priorities shifted, but Mercury, Gemini and Apollo was not how he originally envisioned the nation's first steps into space.

In some significant ways, I think he would be prouder of the International Space Station as an engineering accomplishment than he was for landing a man on the moon. I doubt he would write off the past 30 years as being inconsequential.

von Braun's driving vision was to send the masses into space, not just a handful to the moon. He founded the National Space Institute to advocate for public engagement and involvement in the space program, which included the space shuttle and space station, permanent settlements, space tourism and point-to-point suborbital travel.

Whizzospace
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posted 05-21-2013 09:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Whizzospace   Click Here to Email Whizzospace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Indeed. We effectively disrupted the idea of a full space architecture. We know the Saturn-Apollo system could have provided some prime ingredients, but the reason for that development was to achieve a finite political goal.

Then we built just one piece of the greater Von Braun architecture: a transport (STS) without an initial shipping destination. We lament the loss of other elements like orbital dockyards, tugs, and long duration exploration ships as too big a government bill. Given the arguably uncertain heavy lift (SLS) future, lack of a modern architectural approach, and of course little funding or broad political support - well, all I've got is nostalgia.

The unflown leftovers are beautiful giant ornaments. But I selfishly would have preferred 514 and 515 as 'two last chances' to see a mighty Saturn launch. An Apollo 16 launch viewing seat was the grand prize for selling subscriptions when I was young... I won a radio.

Obviousman
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posted 05-22-2013 03:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert is right; let's nor forget that immediately after the success of Apollo 11, there were a number of senior NASA people who wanted to stop right there: "Mission accomplished; let's end on a high note".

I would have loved to have seen the continuance of long range plans that NASA for further manned exploration (lunar station, Mars flyby, Mars landing, etc) but it was not to be.

J Blackburn
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posted 05-22-2013 09:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for J Blackburn   Click Here to Email J Blackburn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
As for von Braun's feelings, I'm sure he would have been realistic and pragmatic about the choices NASA made before he died; but he would be saddened to see the US space program going in fits and starts as it does now, with changing goals and no spaceship at the dock, waiting to leave for a new destination. Hopefully, political will and vision are not mutually exclusive and plans and visits to other worlds can be made like in the time of Apollo. That would be a fine epilogue indeed.
Well said!

Fra Mauro
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posted 05-22-2013 10:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I'm sure von Braun would have admired the ISS, I'm certain that he would have been shocked by how long it took to finally get one up there.

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