Saturday, May 14, 2011


Back in the 1960s, and early 1970s, the Soviets were developing a major booster rocket as part of their own project to land cosmonauts on the moon. Woefully underfunded, not to mention being behind the Americans who started designing the "Saturn V" about four years earlier, in 1962, the N1 was beset by problems, chiefly the engines. When the final design was settled on, the "first stage" booster had 30 separate engines. By comparison, the Saturn V had just five. You don't have to be a mathematician to understand that you are increasing your chances of an engine failure (to whatever degree) by six times. Having to synchronize so many engines is perhaps the greater problem.

It was more complicated than that, of course, but the end result was not only were the Russians not able to put a man on the moon -- thwarted in a big way by the death of chief rocket designer Sergei Korolev in January of 1966 -- but the rocket itself was not even put successfully into an L.E.O. (low Earth orbit). As a matter of fact, one rocket exploded on the launch pad -- a major disaster, but luckily nobody was killed. (Keep in mind that a rocket detonating at such an early part of the flight is a major event. The fuel tanks are topped-off.)

The last attempt at uploading an N1 was done in 1972... the program was finally cancelled two years later.

Details on the N1 rocket were not made public until 1990.

This looks like something out of a Gerry Anderson show, such as Thunderbirds.

Yeah, it looks like model-work that Derek Meddings would have done for Thunderbirds. You can almost imagine the Airfix kit parts. And the brilliant, joyous, and almost martial-like, Barry Gray music accompanying all the above photos.

Article on the N1, comparing it with the American Saturn IV rocket...

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