This blog post by John Duncan, who has been running the Apollo Saturn Reference Page since 1997, goes into great detail as to why the SA-500F has traumatized generations of space enthusiasts. This iteration of the Saturn V existed for an essential, serious reason: rolled to Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A in May 1966, its purpose was to validate the facilities, fittings, tank loadings, and other vital support operations concerning the moon-bound rocket. However, Duncan wrote of the SA-500F’s more sinister second life: “The much photographed first stack would set the appearance for millions of toys, model kits, posters, and dog chew toys for decades, even when just a few minutes of research would show that the actual flying versions were different.”
|"Sigh. I'm just going to stand here, wait for the measles, and for this fake ass rocket to go off." "Thomas Mattingly" (actor Gary Sinise) in 1995's Apollo 13 movie.|
One sighting that proved to infuriate nerds for the last couple of decades included the launch scene in 1995’s Apollo 13 movie. In the film, a dejected, emo-as-hell Thomas K. Mattingly (played by Gary Sinise), having been axed from the mission at the last minute due to measles exposure, watches what looks like the SA-500F launch from KSC. In addition, Mattingly appears to be about a mile or two away from the launchpad, which was really not the best place to be during a Saturn V launch, but that’s probably an issue best left to another blog post. (The real-life Mattingly eventually did fly to the Moon in April 1972, aboard Apollo 16.) While the 500F was ultimately dismantled, it continues to live its very best life in the form of that popular movie, restaurant signs, and mass-produced model kits.
Last four photos are screenshots from SCTV. Guy Caballero (in wheelchair) introduces Red Rooster to his anti-Soviet deterrent.
|Space Shuttle concept art, 1972, from the San Diego Air and Space Museum.|
My favorite Traumatizing Rocket of All Time is this Shuttle/Saturn hybrid from 1972. A large number of Space Shuttle concepts were bandied about before its “orbiter/stack” design was solidified, and this one with a single rocket and a small orbiter is pretty entertaining, if devastating to some purists out there.
|EXTRA SPECIAL EDIT/ADDITION: The super insane 500F/Skylab (1973 postal cover). The 1970s ruined everything! Found on eBay and supplied by John Duncan, many thanks!|