Nation: The Little Engine that Could--and Did

COMPARED with the mighty Saturn 5, which generated 7,500,000 Ibs. of thrust in its first stage alone, the little engine seemed puny indeed. But the importance of the Apollo spacecraft's 20,500-lb.-thrust Service Propulsion System (SPS) engine was far out of proportion to its 31-ft. length. The engine's faultless operation made the difference not only between a relatively simple moon shot and last week's sophisticated mission, but also between life and death for the astronauts.

Had the SPS engine failed to ignite, or burned too briefly during the attempt to place Apollo into lunar orbit,...

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