Why was the Saturn V rocket so big?

Updated: 9/27/2023
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5y ago

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The Saturn V was designed to place the Apollo space vehicle on a trajectory to get to the moon. This required a very large amount of fuels and oxidizers be carried for the engines, This required very very big fuel and oxidizer tanks inside each stage, making the Saturn V the biggest rocket ever built.

Note: Wernher von Braun's original 1950s plans for a moon landing did not require such a big rocket, as a space station would be used as an intermediate staging area. However when NASA took Kennedy's challenge to reach the moon "by the end of the decade" they abandoned his plan (developing the planned space station would take most of a decade itself) and decided to use a direct one step trajectory to the moon, which needed the very big Saturn V. The development of a space station would be postponed until after the moon missions were over.

Currently work is beginning on rockets usable for missions to Mars. They will likely be even bigger than the Saturn V, as even though we do now have a space station it is designed as a scientific research lab not as an intermediate staging area for moon or Mars missions (which would require the space station to have large fuel and oxidizer storage tanks, so it could act as a "filling station" for long range space vehicles before leaving earth orbit, as Wernher von Braun had originally planned the moon landings).

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Q: Why was the Saturn V rocket so big?
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