Q:

What was the Saturn V rocket?

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Quick Answer

The Saturn V rocket was the heavy lift vehicle that took astronauts to the moon as part of the Apollo program. As of 2014, it remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket to see active use and is the only vehicle that has ever taken humans beyond low earth orbit. NASA launched a total of 13 Saturn V rockets during the Apollo program.

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Full Answer

Originally, NASA intended to use multiple smaller rockets to reach the moon. The original plan called for vehicles to rendezvous in Earth orbit, forming the spacecraft that would make the journey to the moon and back. Eventually, this plan was scrapped in favor of sending two linked spacecraft to the moon and having them rendezvous in lunar orbit. This plan was much simpler, but it required a much larger rocket.

The first two Saturn V launches were unmanned flight tests to determine the safety and capabilities of the rocket. Apollo 7 used the smaller Saturn 1B, because the mission was only meant to test the command and lunar modules in Earth orbit. Apollo 8 was the first manned Saturn launch, and launches continued through Apollo 17 using the heavy rocket. The last Saturn V launch occurred in 1973, when the heavy rocket lifted Skylab into Earth orbit.

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