Magnificent Ride

affinity designer

"Eh, Houston, Apollo 11. That Saturn gave us a magnificent ride."

Those were the words of Neil Armstrong, commander of the first manned mission to land humans on Earth's natural satellite, after the mighty Saturn V rocket boosted their spacecraft on a trajectory to reach the Moon.

The Saturn V was the largest, most powerful rocket built and successfully flown up to the time of the Apollo missions. Its five F-1 first stage engines put out a combined seven-and-a-half million pounds of thrust. Together with the other two stages, there was enough power to send the entire third stage and its payload of the Apollo spacecraft on a path to the Moon.


The inspiration for this piece is a photo taken from an Air Force tracking aircraft as Apollo 11 roared skyward. One of the most impressive aspects a Saturn V launch is the massive and beautiful exhaust plume. The flames extended several times the rocket's length behind the Saturn. The gases expanded into the increasingly rarified atmosphere as the rocket ascended, painting out beautiful and intricate yellow and orange patterns against the blue sky.

Bubble Blast series by Dave Ginsberg
Apollo 11 roars skyward on July 16, 1969
Photo credit: NASA

In Magnificent Ride, I have stylized the impressive plume while maintaining the spirit of the exhaust plume's structure. As was the case with the actual Saturn V, I show the flames climbing up the sides of the first stage. I also show the shock waves emanating out from the vehicle as it reaches and exceeds supersonic speeds. The dark purple colors surrounding the bright flames are reminiscent of the visual artifacts caused by the television cameras of the times.

CBS News coverage of Apollo 11 launch
CBS News coverage of Apollo 11 launch
CBS News coverage of Apollo 11 launch
CBS News coverage of Apollo 11 launch