the Greatest Machine Ever Built | Pt1-3

Some of the greatest engineers, designers, mathematicians & craftsmen created the Saturn-5 rocket that launched NASA’s Apollo program taking men to the moon. This was, in my opinion, the greatest engineering project ever conceived & implemented by man (and woman).

the Greatest Machine Ever Built

Pt 1 Rocketdyne – the Engines

This part covers the amazing Rocketdyne F-1 engines. These were the most powerful engines ever built & remain so as of this story (2022). Although NASA is working on some more powerful rockets, the Space Launch System, Nothing will ever compare to the monumental feat of engineering done in the 1960’s on the F-1.

Stats on the F1 engine. (There are 5 on the spaceship)

  • Each engine weighs 9.2 tons
  • They are 19 ft tall & 12 ft in diameter.
  • It burns liquid oxygen & RP-1 (rocket fuel)
  • It only runs for about 2 min 45 sec.
  • One engine created 1.5 million pounds of thrust.
  • Total thrust of all 5 is 7.5 million pounds.
  • That is roughly 1 million horsepower.

Pt 2 Apollo’s Brains – Computer Systems


  • It took 350 people to design the software for Apollo 11.
  • IBM designed & built most of the computer systems.
  • The fastest computer today is 146 million times faster.
  • Your phone has over 1million times more memory.
  • Computers flew most of the mission, not the astronauts.

“Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.” — Michio Kaku

That doesn’t mean they weren’t powerful.

Apollo had 4 computers.

  • Launch Computer
  • Guidance Computer
  • Lander Guidance Computer
  • Lander Backup (abort) Computer

Launch Vehicle Digital Computer

At 90 lbs. this was the most compact computer for its time.

The IU (instrumentation unit)

  • 21 ft wide
  • 3 ft tall
  • 2.2 tons
  • Controls the launch

Apollo Guidance Computer

It was about as powerful as an Apple II.

These gave the Astronauts ‘flight’ control.

Apple II Computer
Apple ][e Computer

So you see, these 4 computers were very powerful & did an amazing job.

Pt 3 3.2.1.Saturn V Liftoff – Getting to Space

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, liftoff! Seems pretty simple, right?

Actually, it is a bit more complicated.

The rocket, fully fueled, weighs 6.2 million pounds

First stage: 2 ½ minutes burn time, 6,000 miles per hour

Stage 2 & 3 pushed it to 25,000 miles per hour

If it exploded it would be like blowing up 540 tons of TNT

Thanks for reading “the Greatest Machine Ever Built” page one.

pt 1-3 | pt 4-6

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Thanks to; Tim Colegrove (CC BY-SA 4.0), Frmorrison (CC BY-SA 4.0), Jud McCranie (CC BY-SA 3.0) & NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (Public Domain) for pictures.

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