Super slo mo Apollo, yo

By Phil Plait | April 30, 2010 11:59 am

In the Very Cool Department…

My friend Mark Gray from SpaceCraftFilms narrates this film, showing the Apollo 11 Saturn V liftoff using a high-speed camera. I’ve seen this clip about eight bazillion times over the years, but Mark gives the details of what’s happening, providing insight I wasn’t aware of.

The cool thing about this, to me, is the fact that it’s so familiar, but there’s still so much to know about it! And it goes to show you: sending rockets into space is, well, rocket science.


Comments (31)

  1. boneheadFX

    Wow! It’s amazing at what you can see at just 500 fps. Also, the the 16mm to HD transfer looks terrific. Very cool.

  2. The version with BSG music is also oddly appropriate:

  3. Tom

    Nothing will ever beat watching those engines! The amazing amount of thrust.
    The slo mo makes it all the cooler.

  4. bigjohn756

    That was exciting! Lot’s of stuff going on that you could never otherwise see.

  5. ND

    From a previous posting on BA. The music is from the new BSG series and is awesome.

    What’s amazing is the speed at which the exhaust is leaving even 500 fps. I suppose 500 is not that high a frame rate. 5000 would have been interesting.

  6. Mark

    Ah, but plans for heavy-launch vehicles were scrapped. :(

  7. bassmanpete

    Was the whole platform bouncing around or was it the camera moving?

  8. Chris

    That was fascinating. They should show this in schools.

  9. Robert


    Much better than sitting on the floor on 4th grade watching all those launches on a masive 20″ TV.

    Well, not really. It was cool every time.

  10. Chas, PE SE

    Holy Halakeia! Still, the prettiest version of this is in “Spaceflight”, episode 3, the Apollo 8 launch, done to “Also Sprach Zarathrusa” (Yeah, I know, cliche — but what a cliche!)

    Oh — It’s rocket ENGINEERING! (grumble, grumble)

  11. TheInquisitor

    What I find interesting is that at points it looks sped up, even though it’s in super slow mo. I guess that’s just a result of the vast kinetic energy involved.

  12. Shoeshine Boy

    What an amazing feat of engineering Apollo was!

  13. dongisselbeck

    Amazing what they could do on that sound stage in Area 51.

  14. I know it’s not the same video, but I can’t see a Saturn V launch without hearing the old MTV theme.

  15. ND

    The Saturn V first stage nozzles, with Von Braun thrown in for scale. That’s just insane.

  16. Kevin F.

    That was WAY cooler than I was expecting.

  17. Lars

    …slo mo Apollo, yo…: My first thought is that you were practicing your Jadoon again!

  18. Shaun

    Just as an exercise, I watched this with the sound turned off and Sagan reading from “Pale Blue Dot” in the background. I wept.

    Why do the flames get suddenly sucked back down starting at 00:45?

  19. Kevin F.

    @Shaun: For the explanation going on that you missed because you had the sound off. :)

  20. Michael Kingsford Gray

    What can I say, but: AWESOME!
    Does he have footage from any other of the cameras?

  21. Inertially Guided

    I watched this video during a break from observing Saturn this AM–saw the storm that’s making the news–and when I went back outside I couldn’t stop humming the title music from the HBO series “From the Earth to the Moon” from a few years back. What an amazing accomplishment Apollo was, and what a privilege to have been a young boy staying up late to watch Neil’s famous first steps!

    Yes, it IS rocket science–or engineering–but I think that the history books of the future will record those feats as a crossroads of our species. We should endeavor to be worthy of these days.

  22. Grand Lunar

    Reminds me of footage of a nuclear test, when stuff catches on fire and the blast wave hits.
    Awesome power, the Saturn V!

    Does a similar occurance happen to the pad during shuttle launches?

    @6. Mark

    Where’s you hear that news?
    The plan asks for a new heavy lift by 2015.

  23. Halcyon Dayz


    I mean: Hot!

  24. Chris

    Cool bit: watch as the falling chunks of ice get near the the nozzles and flash into steam before they get sucked under.

    I’ve seen the two Saturn Vs on display at the Kennedy Center and at Space Camp in Huntsville. When you stand there under those engines it becomes blindingly obvious that these are the coolest things mankind has ever built.

  25. Radwaste

    I had the good fortune to grow up on Merritt Island; I went to school with the kids whose families worked at KSC. One of my friends’ dad was with Technicolor, who had the contract to film everything which went on.

    Once, they set up a microphone in an ablative-coated box underneath the missile. The mike was calibrated to “hear through the box” with a white-noise generator. After the launch, when they played the tape for the guys in the facility, it was remarked that, “That doesn’t sound like the missile at all. That’s the noise my AM radio makes during a thunderstorm.”

    One of the engineers said, basically, that no, that’s right, and said that’s what he expected, because there’s actually a lightning storm going on in the flame. You should know that Technicolor has IR, UV and other false-color footage of F-1 engine action because of early difficulties with producing a stable pressure gradient in the bell.

    Heh. Take a look at this, and realize that this is not a warehouse roof the engines are being bolted to – it’s the bottom of the Saturn’s first stage!

    No matter how much I look, I’m still amazed. I sure wish people would quit crying for money and yelling “ME FIRST” long enough to see what a little effort can yield.

    When you go to Florida on vacation, forget the “pretend” stuff at Disney World. Go see what we’ve really done, at KSC. Take the tour. Try, though, not to be discouraged by the number of people there who think it’s another “pretend” site – who don’t know that stuff really works.

  26. Shaun

    @ Kevin F.
    Fair enough. Teach me not to post half awake. ūüėÄ

  27. JGH-4774

    Holy mother of mercy!

  28. Messier Tidy Upper

    Wow! :-) 8)

    That *was* awesome footage from a very different perspective and so dramatic and spine-chilling even well after the Saturn V had left.

    Now that was one impressive piece of engineering! :-)

    Good interesting commentary too – well done to the commentator, the whole Apollo team & thanks BA for sharing this with us. :-)

  29. To channel Jeff Spicoli, “That was awesome! Totally awesome!”


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