VFX artist demonstrates just how big SpaceX rockets are

way down south an elephant stood on a monkeys toe…

One of the planned missions as part of Apollo Applications (what became Skylab) was a manned flyby of Venus using a Saturn V. The mission would have lasted a bit over a year for total flyby duration of a few hours.

The S-IVB third stage fuel tank would have been a “wet workshop”- after the fuel was expended, the astronauts would have lived in the now-empty fuel tank…


What NASA did in the 60’s and 70’s was truly magnificent, especially when you see 40 years later we have not surpassed their accomplishments. For those who think we didn’t actually go to the moon, GTFOutta here.


Hell, almost 50 years later. I can still count, I just don;t have that many fingers.

Come back? This was the era of disposable launchers - you launch a huge rocket and get back a tiny crew capsule, with everything else abandoned in stages along the way.

The original Saturn V could lift 118 tonnes to LEO. The upgraded Saturn V (used for the last 3 Apollo missions) could lift 140 tonnes to LEO. If they’d kept making and using the booster, there probably could have been a couple more upgrades. Nasa did several paper studies in the 60’s of beyond the moon missions using Saturn V launchers. Quite a few involved replacing the Saturn’s third stage with a nuclear thermal rocket to provide the extra oomph needed.

One involved only a single Saturn V launch, with a nuclear thermal rocket upper stage, total mass to be lifted to LEO, 118 tons. As they got close to Mars, the astronauts would get into a lander, dash ahead of the main vehicle, land on Mars, spend 9 days doing stuff, then launch back up and meet with the main vehicle as it looped around Mars before returning to Earth. Not putting the main vehicle in Mars orbit saved a ton of fuel and obviated the need to do multiple launches.


Another envisioned a similar flyby-without-orbiting mission, with loads of robotic probes and at least one robotic sample return but no manned landing on Mars. It would have required four Saturn V launches and if I read it right, no nuclear upper stage (which gives you an idea of the vast benefit of using nuclear rockets over chemical rockets). It was envisioned as the first step toward a later, larger expedition that would land astronauts on Mars.


Both of these were basically six months to mars, 18 months back to Earth missions.

Finally, here’s a full up mission to enter Mars orbit, land, and return with a lot of rock samples. Total amount to be lifted to LEO, 2,100 tonnes, fifteen Saturn V launches, most of them with a cargo of nothing but fuel. On the upside, total mission time is cut to fifteen months.

eta: the plan involved using a stretched Saturn V with strap on boosters, capable of lifting 250 tons to LEO, so you only need nine launches.



“Other Saturn-V derivatives analyzed included the Saturn MLV family of “Modified Launch Vehicles”, which would have almost doubled the payload lift capability of the standard Saturn V and were intended for use in a proposed mission to Mars by 1980.[57]”

Yes - they could have done so.


Well, deae Libertatis is certainly by far the biggest statue in that picture, by a huge margin.

Seems doable as the Mariner missions used Atlas rockets, and Viking used Titan, and they’re both smaller than Saturn. (Or am I looking at it incorrectly?)

Slide rules and an essentially unlimited budget. USA wanted to show the Soviet Union it could get to the moon first, and cost wasn’t an issue.

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Unmanned missions can be far lighter than manned missions. Once you add food, water, air, and a pressurized habitat, you’re upping the bare minimum mass of the mission by a hundred fold, or a thousand fold if you get ambitious about it.

The Viking missions had a total mass of only 2-3 tonnes. The lightest weight manned Mars mission study called for a mission mass of 118 tons, and got away with that only by using a nuclear rocket and not putting the main rocket into Mars orbit. A full up Mars mission (entering Mars orbit) called for a total mass of 2100 tons.


I would guess that materials, controls and manufacturing techniques have improved a tad in 50 years as well.


also - welcome new user




It’s number three, by quite a large margin. And soon to be fourth.

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Thank you for the link, I learned new stuff!

But as I said, (emphasis added)

(And anyway I was just making weak jokes)

Typo depressingly accurate

I see the Statue of Liberty from my office kitchen window. It does look tiny, and sticks in my head as tiny. When I finally visited it though, it does feel really huge when you’re next to it. Bigger than a building somehow, I suppose because you don’t expect something with such a complex shape to be so huge. But yeah, I feel like you really have to have been next to it to feel the visceral comparison

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The most closely-guarded secret in the aerospace industry is that there’s really no particular reason rockets need to be shaped that way…


I’ve been in it, all the way up to the crown,

It’s not that big (but it IS a pretty cool double spiral staircase).

Compare things to Space Mountain.



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Quite. And Jeff Bezos is laying it on a bit thick with the New Shepard.

Betelguese is 55% of the diameter of UV Scuti