Posted by on Feb 25, 2017 in Main |

Society Secretary Dominic Curran Welcomes Mr Frank Rourke to Keighley Astronomical Society.

The aim of the Apollo programme was to land the first person on the Moon. However, when the program was announced, in 1961, only two people had actually been in space. Scientists were faced with a daunting task – to construct a rocket powerful enough to reach the Moon and a spacecraft that could travel there and back. Mr Frank Rouke from Salford Astronomical society detailed the formation of the Apollo/Saturn rocket programme, to another packed meeting of Keighley astronomical society. on 23rd February 2017


The world remembers the three astronauts were in training for AS-204, the first manned test of the Apollo Command/Service Module. However, on 27th January 1967, a fire on the launch pad claimed the lives of the three astronauts during a pre-flight test. NASA retroactively named the unflown mission Apollo 1, as the agency redesigned the Apollo command module and returned to unmanned test flights.


Prior to the Apollo 1 disaster, Mr Rouke explained there were many unmanned test flights of the Apollo programme commencing on the 27th October 1961. The early launches where to test items such as the launch escape systems. Starting with a small launcher called Little Joe, moving onto the Saturn 1 and finally the Moon Saturn 5 rocket. Which to this day remains the largest and most powerfull spacecraft ever built.

Three unmanned test flights of Apollo-Saturn rockets took place. AS-201 , AS-203 and AS-202 missions took place in 1966, testing the Saturn 1B launch vehicle. They set the stage for AS-204, planned to have been the first manned mission, but which ended with fire killing three astronauts.


The giant Saturn V rocket for the Apollo 4 mission at the Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39A blasted off at the dawn of 8th November 1967, during the pre-launch alert. The uncrewed Apollo 4 (AS-501) mission was the first “all-up” test of the three-stage Saturn V rocket, meaning all stages were functioning. (The seemingly confusing Apollo 4 designation followed from the first three unmanned launches, AS-201, AS-203 and AS-202.)


AS-204, the fourth Saturn IB launch vehicle, lifted off 22nd January 1968 from Cape Canaveral, Florida of the unmanned Apollo 5 mission. The mission successfully tested the Lunar Module in a space environment


The Apollo 6 mission provided the final test of the Saturn V launch vehicle and Apollo spacecraft for use in crewed Apollo missions. It launched on 4th April 1968, but was overshadowed by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. the same day.


Manned missions returned with Apollo 7. Crewed by Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. The mission launched on 11th October 1968, and was an engineering flight to test space vehicle and mission support facilities performance during a manned mission. The rest of the Apollo programme was as they say; History.

The Apollo/Saturn Space programme logo.



An image of the launchers used during the Apollo missions.



Society secretary with Salford Astronomical society committee members Kevin Gaskell and Frank Rourke.



From left, Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee pose in front of their Saturn 1 launch vehicle at Launch Complex 34 at the Kennedy Space Center.

An early test flight using the Little Joe rocket to test the launch escape systems.



The launch of unmanned AS 201.


The unmanned launch of AS 204 later renamed Apollo 5

The first launch of a fully assembled mighty Saturn 5 rocket AS 502, later renamed                      Apollo 6