A lunartic limerick
It’s well-known in my family that I have strong opinions on what comprises a ‘proper’ rocket and I can say without fear of contradiction that, as rockets go, the Saturn V is peerless! Which is why I’ve just seen the film First Man, a biopic of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon and an event that I remember watching as a kid. In fact, the Saturn V launch sequence was the highlight of the movie for me and I suspect it is no coincidence that Lego produced its version of the rocket in the same year that the film was released; a commercial tie-in, perhaps?
Which brings me to the events of a couple of years ago when shortly after watching SpaceX launch a re-supply mission to the International Space Station, one that succeeded in ‘landing’ the launch vehicle’s first-stage propulsion unit (upright!) on an ocean barge for re-use, ‘Firstborn’ messaged me about its awesomeness and significance (having watched it in the presence of an astrophysicist who had explained the various goings-on).
Awesome indeed, and a terrific technological breakthrough; however, my subsequent suggestion that there was only ever one ‘proper’ rocket, the Saturn V, was met with some disdain by the astrophysicist concerned: “Saturn V was a glorious rocket, but SLS will be even better. Also F*** YOU!”. Charming, eh?
(Actually, although our young wordsmith had been telling Firstborn about SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle, his comment about ‘SLS‘ refers to NASA’s Space Launch System, a bigger re-usable launch vehicle that can chuck a whole lot more metal into the sky than the Falcon 9, but one that is still delayed in production, over-budget and yet-to-perform)
The thing is, my reasoning about the Saturn V had nothing to do with technology. It’s all about ‘soul’. To anyone that stayed up all night as a youngster in the UK in 1969 to watch the TV relay of the first-ever moon landing (on a 405-line black and white vacuum-tube TV), the image of the Saturn V still resonates. So despite the subsequent technological advances, for a youngster whose first-ever Airfix-kit model was that of a Saturn V rocket bought as a result of watching those fuzzy pictures of ‘Eagle’ landing on the moon followed by Neil Armstrong’s timeless declaration, there can only ever be one rocket with soul, only one ‘proper’ rocket; the Saturn V!
(Apollo 8, shown above, was the mission that first entered lunar orbit, paving the way for Apollo 11’s successful moon landing.)
Anyway, here’s what I replied to the errant astrophysicist…
An astrophysicist once thought that he knew
Of a rocket that could easily out-do
The outer space jive
Of an old Saturn V
But it can’t, so go F*** yourself too!
Postscript #1: N.B. Apollo 13 is by far a better movie than First Man and, if you are interested, a charming recreation of events surrounding the TV relay of the Apollo 11 mission can be seen in the Australian movie The Dish.
Postscript #2: Did you know that you can become your own man or woman in the moon by taking a selfie through the cardboard tube from the innards of a roll of paper towels…