Apollo 11 Model Rocket Launch - Recreation of the Original 1969 NBC Broadcast
At 9:32 AM on July 16, 1969, a Saturn V carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Designated "Apollo 11," the mission successfully landed humans on the moon for the first time and entranced millions around the world.
With the 50th anniversary of this achievement approaching in July 2019, I attempted to recreate the original NBC broadcast from 1969, shot-for-shot (with one added angle that I liked).
The model rocket is an Estes 1:100 Saturn V Apollo 11 #2157 flown on an Aerotech E15-4W (under-powered for the weight of the rocket - I suggest a higher-thrust motor). The engine mount was modified to accommodate the shorter length of the motor.
The launch tower is scaled from the original blueprints and constructed of 3/16" and 1/8" basswood sticks, and balsa sheets for the "floors." I did not include the crane, arms, or center shaft for simplicity. The tower separates into five sections for transport.
The base is built from two 36" x 24" canvas pieces with a layer of 2" foam sandwiched between them in order to built the "flame trench," with cardboard sides. The "legs" of the base are double-layers of foam board (I added cinder blocks for extra strength).
The launch pad itself is made from 2" PVC pipe with an 8' 1010 rail. I used Apogee's rail guides in lieu of rail buttons for the rocket to provide an adequate standoff due to the rocket's surface details.
While I did shoot at a high FPS, the rocket still took off too quickly to match the original broadcast. To slow the footage down further, I used flux within GoPro Studio, as well as simply stretching the clip in Sony Vegas, to artificially slow down the footage further. Extra green-screened smoke was added to make the shots more dynamic and hide artifacts in the footage due to the artificial slow-down.
A lot of people had problems keeping the vacu-formed corrugated sections to stay glued to the rocket. I used a high-strength adhesive spray, with all edges reinforced with a thin layer of superglue, and had no problems. A similar test without the superglue resulted in the corrugated sections peeling off within months.
The black sections of the roll patterns were brush painted. Note: The Estes instructions have incorrect measurements for the central roll pattern (above the flags) - the horizontal portion is "higher" in real life than in the instructions.