My Favourite Picture by Andy Bollan (article).


I love this picture.

I first saw it on NASA’a APOD website  roughly 10 years ago.

It looks like a candle on the altar of science or a giant arrow pointing onwards and upwards.

Like Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, it shows the sun setting on a glorious technological period of time.

This rocket is about to take humans off planet to walk on another world for the last time to date.

Look at the picture. It is over forty years old but looks like it was taken yesterday.

Apollo 17 was launched in 1972 and marked the pinnacle of rocket technology begun in the 1930s by the Nazis. Forty years from bombing London to walking on the Moon. the Saturn V was in part designed by Werner Von Braun himself.

Look at the sheer size of the first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket dwarfing the lunar and command modules. This rocket still holds the record for largest payload put into orbit.

There is another aspect to this picture. Three years after this launch, the first digital camera would be developed. Film cameras at this time are pretty much at their peak.

This picture, as well as looking forward and backwards in time and technology, represents the end of humankind’s first space dream. It speaks of a wasted opportunity for science and exploration. Who can guess at where we as a species would be if the last 40 years had continued as the previous 40 had? Mars possibly? Lunar base probably.

© Andy Bollan 2015

3 thoughts on “My Favourite Picture by Andy Bollan (article).

  • I was completely amazed by that vehicle and wrote my 11th grade research paper (circa 1969) on it. It was a very in depth paper for our excellent English teacher. I have built numerous plastic and flying models of it over the years and have a highly detailed Airfix model on my shelves now with the 3 stages and spacecraft separated and displayed. I also had a car pass to the Apollo 16 launch and was parked about a half mile from the VAB on the NASA causeway and about 4 miles from the pad for the launch, a truly amazing experience with the sound physically reverberating off your chest. Then I was on the causeway between KSC and the ETR for the Skylab lab launch. I was so fortunate to have had the chance to watch this vehicle twice in person from relatively close up.

    • Wow jealous much Robert.

      The closest I ever came to seeing any kind of launch was one summer on holiday in Florida, the whole family went to Coco beach because we heard there was to be a shuttle launch and you might see it from there. On the way over the radio announced that the launch was cancelled. I went belly boarding instead.

      • If you are ever over this way again make certain you visit the KSC Saturn 5 center which is part of the tour. You get to walk around a Saturn laid out in stages on the floor of the building. It was pieced together from various Saturn stages. The S-1C stage was a ground test stage actually fired at Marshall before going to KSC. The S-II was scheduled for the cancelled Apollo 18 mission and the S-IVB was a ground test stage. As you probably know there were 15 flight vehicles built with 13 flown. The remaining stages are used for the KSC, Marshall, and JSC displays. When I first started my career at KSC full time in 1979 they still had an SII stage in storage in the VAB which I presume became the one at the Saturn 5 center now. Walking around that Saturn in the facility is truly amazing and definitely worth the trip if you are anywhere near the area.


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