A Brief History
On July 3, 1969, the Soviet Union’s dreams of a moon rocket went up in smoke and fire on the launch pad as the largest explosion of any rocket in history. The Soviet N1 rocket booster was a giant rocket meant to carry objects or people beyond Earth orbit, basically to the moon. Its first stage is the most powerful single stage of any rocket ever made, and that includes the American counterpart, the Saturn V.
The 5 stage monster N1 rockets were 344 feet tall and almost 56 feet in diameter. Weighing in at over 6 million pounds, they were designed for a payload of 200,000 pounds into low earth orbit or 58,000 pounds past earth orbit. The heavy lift rockets were expected to carryout reconnaissance of possible landing spots on the moon and then carry manned flights there.
Unfortunately for the Soviet space program, all 4 attempted launches resulted in failure, with the launch of July 3, 1969 resulting in a giant explosion that destroyed the launch pad.
Investigation showed that a loose bolt was sucked into an oxygen pump causing the rocket motors to automatically shut down and the rocket to fall from its maximum lift off of nearly 200 meters. It took a year and a half just to rebuild the launch pad, putting the Soviets far behind in the “space race.”
We cannot say how much each of these rockets and the destruction of the launch pad cost in terms of money, but it certainly had to be a lot, money that could have been used for all sorts of humanitarian purposes other than racing the US to the moon.
The bottom line is, space programs are incredibly expensive.
Question for students (and subscribers): Are they worth it? What should their priorities be? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Chertok, Boris and Asif Siddiqi. Rockets and People: Volume IV: The Moon Race. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Laika ac from USA of the Memorial Museum of Astronautics, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Laika ac at https://www.flickr.com/photos/68240136@N02/6995717351. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.
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