This Insane Rocket Is Why The Soviet Union Never Made It To The MoonMichael Ballaban10/19/13 1:06pmFiled to: spacelopniksoviet unionN1rockets32327EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkAmericans tend to talk a lot about the Space Race and how we made it to the Moon and we were first and no one else was second because we are the best. It's put into context by the fact that the Soviet satellite Sputnik was the first in space, but by the time we get around to discussing the moon landings no one mentions why. And this enormous, absolutely insane rocket is the reason.AdvertisementSure, one could go in and argue that the failure of the Soviet Union to make it to the Moon was a result of an incompatible governing system, or economic hurdles, or a myriad of other factors contributed to the communist nation never placing a human on the lunar surface, but they all culminated in this, the N1 rocket.If you were an alien observing earth sometime around January 1962 you may be forgiven for placing a bet on the Soviet Union as the eventual winner of the Space Race. They had gotten the first satellite into space, the first animal into space, and not only the first human into space with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, but they also had him orbit the Earth. Americans had managed to come in second every time, and the only manned spaceflight they accomplished was a simple suborbital flight. And in case you're not sure what that means, it means that they had astronaut Alan Shepard shoot straight up and straight down, and that was it. He was in flight for less than half an hour.The Space Race effectively ended with the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon in July of 1969. Where were the Soviets though? Shouldn't they have been the ones saying "медведь приземлился" on the powdery gray landscape?AdvertisementThe N1 rocket that they created to take them there was almost as big as the Saturn V that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. It was a bit shorter, and a bit lighter, but it had more thrust out of the gate. How it got that massive boost was probably its downfall.As you can see from the picture above, the N1 had a lot of engines. Whereas the Saturn V was powered by only five enormous engines, the N1 had thirty little ones. 24 of them formed a ring around the outside of Block A, the name for the first stage, with six placed in the center to provide roll control. The thinking was that if one of these small little engines was good, then strapping them all together would be great. This idea went horribly wrong though. AdvertisementSponsoredThink about it this way. The Saturn V, with its comparatively simple system, still had over six million different parts. If only .1% of those parts broke during the horrifically violent event that is a rocket launch, over six thousand would still break leading to (hopefully) instantaneous fiery death. Not good.And yet the Saturn V itself never resulted in a fatality. (The Apollo 1 astronauts were tragically killed, but that was due to a failure in the command capsule oxygen system). The Soviet system was infamous for poor quality work, and when you get thirty engines in one single stage, place them all right next to each other, and light the match, a failure of one would lead to an extremely fast domino effect, which would lead to a massive explosion.