This slow motion Apollo 11 launch footage shot in 1969 still looks absolutely incredible today

Jun 3, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This slow motion Apollo 11 launch footage shot in 1969 still looks absolutely incredible today

Jun 3, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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This is a video we’ve actually featured before, way back in 2014, but it appears to be making the rounds on social media again and it’s well worth a revisit. It was shot by NASA, obviously, and it’s footage of the Apollo 11 launch, shot on 16mm film at 500 frames per second in 1969. Now, that might not seem like a lot compared to the crazy slow motion cameras available today, but 53 years ago, that was pretty impressive!

When shot at 500 frames per second and played back at 30 frames per second turns that ~30-second real-time clip into an 8-minute and 22-second sequence that you just can’t take your eyes away from. The Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 was an extremely powerful Heavy Lift Vehicle. It was the heaviest rocket ever to ever fly successfully, weighing in at 6.2 million pounds fully loaded.

The footage was posted to Twitter by Jason Major of Lights in the Dark, a website dedicated to sharing amazing views of the universe. And while this footage might have been a little closer to home than most of the rest of the universe, it certainly is amazing.

Jason only played a 30-minute segment of the slowed-down footage, but here’s the whole thing in its full eight minutes and forty-two seconds glory, with the entire launch wonderfully narrated to explain what’s going on as you’re watching it.

Sure, the flames from the rockets might be a tad overexposed, but for footage that was shot over fifty years ago, it’s pretty awesome to see. And for those of you who are curious, here’s the regular speed version of that footage, played back in real-time to see just how much the above has been slowed down. The speed at which the initial blast and smoke get pulled back into the exhaust at this speed also really shows the incredible power of the Saturn V rocket.

YouTube video

And if you want to hear about how the whole thing worked, this 26-minute video from Fran Blanche (who’s cool and posts some amazing electronics and engineering videos – you should subscribe)  is an excellent engineering deep-dive into the Saturn V and the F-1 engine that got it off the ground. Seeing it broken down to this depth shows you just how complex these rockets were. Pretty amazing considering they didn’t have the benefits of modern computers with its fancy CAD software. Just incredible.

YouTube video

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure love to see The Slow Mo Guys‘ modern-day tech take on this challenge with a SpaceX launch and a couple of Phantom cameras!

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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