Haynes Saturn V Owners' Workshop Manual - David Woods

Digging through my book reviews, the last book on space I read was about the Space Shuttle. In comparison, the Saturn V feels like a much less ambiguous piece of technology. The Cold War motivation now seems distant, but landing humans on the moon is still amazing.

The whole Haynes manual thing is a silly conceit. No-one's suggesting you could service a Saturn V off this! On the other hand, the format is nice - a chunky hard-back full of pictures and, well, a surprising amount of detail for a book like this. It didn't hurt that the book was massively discounted at our local discount book shop (I'm a complete sucker for those).

I guess it demonstrates how little I know of space travel that it was a surprise to me that this book didn't cover the whole "landing on the moon and getting back" bit - this is the Saturn V, that's the Apollo. Rockets and spacecraft are handled separately. I learnt a lot!

I must say, I enjoyed the book a lot. It covers the rocket stage by stage, examining the engines and then the rest of the stage, all the way up, plus the instrument unit, and Skylab as a bonus. It brought home to me engineering as a subject of dealing with the details. Sure, you've got a great big rocket engine, but how do you start and stop it appropriately in sequence, stop cavitation, deal with cryogenic fuels, and how do you abort safely when something goes wrong? And so many more questions. It reminds me of my day job in Site Reliability Engineering, where it's easy to write code that works when everything's ok - but covering graceful degradation in a distributed system is so much more work.

I like this book and would happily recommend it as an introduction to the Saturn V.

Posted 2010-01-26.