Science: The Largest Load

A perfect takeoff erased all the embarrassments of delay. One tiny plug carelessly left in an oxygen line had delayed the launch for 48 hours. Poised on the pad, the big bird had to wait impatiently while Air Force planes tracked down the noisy radio of a ship slogging along offshore. But now Saturn SA-5, biggest and most powerful rocket ever fired aloft, was rising above Cape Kennedy as routinely as any operational missile.

Trailing a muffled bellow from its eight engines, Saturn seemed to rise with unnatural slowness. During the first ten seconds it...

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