Apollos aplenty | Daily Planet | Air & Space Magazine

Apollos aplenty

A great irony of Apollo 1 is that it kicked off the third and final phase of the manned space program, and its most anticipated, with utter tragedy. The deaths of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967, in a command module fire during a launch pad test caused the manned Apollo...

airspacemag.com
The first Saturn rocket heads for the sky in 1961.


A great irony of Apollo 1 is that it kicked off the third and final phase of the manned space program, and its most anticipated, with utter tragedy. The deaths of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967, in a command module fire during a launch pad test caused the manned Apollo program to grind to a halt before it flew even once. The command module spent the next year and a half being redesigned at North American Aviation under intense scrutiny from NASA.

But golden boy Wernher von Braun was making lots of progress. His Saturn rockets that would loft the command module to Earth orbit and the moon had been flying literally for years, even before the Gemini program had begun, indeed before the second group of astronauts had been selected.

The first flight of a Saturn, designated SA-1, occurred at 9:06 a.m. on October 27, 1961. It was the Saturn I, a windowless, manless, mindless missile, at 162 feet tall a behemoth by the standards of the time. It excited the astronauts. In Moon Shot, astronauts Deke Slayton and Alan Shepard recalled their colleague John Glenn raving that the Army had turned "Wernher loose on some monster rocket they called Saturn. Eight engines. Something over a million pounds of thrust for liftoff. We could put up a Mack truck with that thing." The rocket left Cape Canaveral on an eight-minute flight to 3,600 miles an hour and almost 85 miles altitude before splashing down a couple hundred miles off the coast. A total of ten Saturn I flights over the next four years proved that NASA had, at least in the rocket department, cleared the tower.

Saturn I flights

SA-1: October 27, 1961

SA-2: April 25, 1962

SA-3: November 16, 1962

SA-4: March 28, 1963

SA-5: January 29, 1964, first Block II version of a Saturn I; first live S-IV stage

SA-6: May 28, 1964, first active guidance flight

SA-7: September 18, 1964

SA-9: February 16, 1965

SA-8: May 25, 1965

SA-10: July 30, 1965, completed Saturn I program

Saturn IB flights (uprated Saturn I)

AS-201: February 26, 1966

AS-203: July 5, 1966

AS-202: August 25, 1966 (originally intended to launch prior to AS-203, but command and service module delivery was delayed)

AS-204, Apollo 5: January 22, 1968, carried a lunar module to orbit (Grissom, White, and Chaffee's Apollo 1 mission was originally designated AS-204, and would have been called Apollo 4. It had been scheduled to launch February 21, 1967, as the first manned Apollo mission, but the fire occurred three weeks prior. After the tragedy, their unflown mission was redesignated Apollo 1 by order of Dr. George E. Mueller, NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight. He announced that the first Saturn V flight, scheduled for November 1967 would now be designated Apollo 4, and the AS-204 booster that Grissom's crew never flew would be used for Apollo 5, an unmanned mission. No missions or flights were ever officially designated Apollos 2 or 3. However, before the fire, AS-201 and AS-202 were informally thought of as Apollos 1 and 2. When AS-203 moved ahead of AS-202 in the launch sequence, it became informally thought of as Apollo 2, and AS-202 became, informally, Apollo 3. Confused yet?)

AS-205, Apollo 7: October 11, 1968, first manned flight on a Saturn IB; orbited

AS-206, Skylab 2: May 25, 1973

AS-207, Skylab 3: July 28, 1973

AS-208, Skylab 4: November 16, 1973

AS-209, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: July 15, 1975; last flight of a Saturn IB; final flight of Apollo and of a Saturn rocket

Saturn V flights

AS-501, Apollo 4: November 9, 1967

AS-502, Apollo 6: April 4, 1968

AS-503, Apollo 8: December 21, 1968, first manned flight on a Saturn V; first manned lunar orbit

AS-504, Apollo 9: March 3, 1969

AS-505, Apollo 10: May 18, 1969

AS-506, Apollo 11: July 16, 1969, first lunar landing

AS-507, Apollo 12: November 14, 1969

AS-508, Apollo 13: April 11, 1970, aborted enroute to the moon

AS-509, Apollo 14: January 31, 1971

AS-510, Apollo 15: July 26, 1971

AS-511, Apollo 16: April 16, 1972

AS-512, Apollo 17: December 7, 1972, last manned lunar mission

AS-513, Skylab 1: May 14, 1973, unmanned, boosted orbital workshop to orbit; final flight of the Saturn V

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus