Cover image for Stages to Saturn : a technological history of the Apollo/Saturn launch vehicles
Stages to Saturn : a technological history of the Apollo/Saturn launch vehicles
Bilstein, Roger E.
Personal Author:
Paperback edition by University Press of Florida.
Publication Information:
Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 2003.
Physical Description:
xxiv, 511 pages : illustrations, map ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Washington, D.C. : National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1980.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL521 .A333 NO.4206 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"A classic study of the moon rocket that launched the Apollo astronauts on their voyages of discovery."--Roger Launius, chief historian, National Air and Space Museum"This volume is just one of the many excellent histories produced by government and contract historians for the NASA History Office. . . . Roger Bilstein gracefully wends his way through a maze of technical documentation to reveal the important themes of this story. Rarely has such a nuts-and-bolts tale been so gracefully told."--Air University Review

"Easily the best book of the NASA History Series. . . . Starting with the earliest rockets, Bilstein traces the development of the family of massive Saturn launch vehicles that carried the Apollo astronauts to the moon and boosted Skylab into orbit."--Technology and Culture

A classic study of the development of the Saturn launch vehicle that took Americans to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, Stages to Saturn is one of the finest official histories ever produced. The Saturn rocket was developed as a means of accomplishing President John F. Kennedy's goal for the United States to reach the moon before the end of the decade. Without the Saturn V rocket, with its capability of sending as payload the Apollo Command and Lunar Modules--along with support equipment and three astronauts--more than a quarter of a million miles from earth, Kennedy's goal would have been unrealizable. Stages to Saturn not only tells the important story of the research and development of the Saturn rockets and the people who designed them but also recounts the stirring exploits of their operations, from orbital missions around earth testing Apollo equipment to their journeys to the moon and back. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the development of space flight in America and the course of modern technology, this reprint edition includes a new preface by the author providing a 21st-century perspective on the historic importance of the Saturn project.

Roger E. Bilstein is professor emeritus of history at the University of Houston, Clear Lake. Regarded as one of the nation's premier aerospace historians, he is the author of six books, including Flight in America: From the Wrights to the Astronauts and Testing Aircraft, Exploring Space: An Illustrated History of NACA and NASA.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This book was originally published in 1980; it is now updated with a new preface to bring the history up to the 21st century. Bilstein (emer., history, Univ. of Houston, Clear Lake) offers a classic study of the Saturn launch vehicle. He begins with a brief history of the origins of space flight. Aerospace organizations and their origins are clearly discussed along with missions and manufacturing issues. The rest of the book tracks the development of the Saturn rocket in more or less chronological order within each of the primary systems, e.g., engine technology and cryogenic technology. The alternatives that were investigated are mentioned and the reasons for particular choices are plainly explained. The importance of many of the key players, in particular German rocket scientists, is shown throughout, but much of the story is based on the technical and mission requirements. Even though the Saturn launch vehicle played a minor role in the total duration of the mission, this story demonstrates the amount of research, development, and testing that was necessary for its success. Useful for historians interested in the space program and engineers interested in seeing how a massive engineering project can be done. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates; professionals; two-year technical program students. D. B. Mason Albright College