The success of Apollo 4 gave good reason to believe that the Saturn V could be trusted to propel men into space. But NASA pushed on with its plans for a second unmanned booster flight, primarily to give the Pad 39 launch team another rehearsal before sending men into deep space on the Saturn V. The mission was called Apollo 6…
“The fire-in-the-hole abort was the most critical test of the mission and one we had to accomplish successfully prior to a manned mission.” Gene Kranz – Flight Director Apollo 5
“…our building’s shaking here. Our building’s shaking! Oh it’s terrific, the building’s shaking! This big blast window is shaking! We’re holding it with our hands! Look at that rocket go into the clouds at 3000 feet!…you can see it…you can see it…oh the roar is terrific!…” Walter Cronkite – Apollo 4 launch.
The key to high-energy stages was to use liquid hydrogen as the fuel. Liquid hydrogen fuel appealed to rocket designers because of its high specific impulse, which is a basic measure of rocket performance. Specific Impulse is the impulse delivered per unit of propellant consumed. You might think of it as the efficiency of the rocket. Compared to an RP-1 (kerosene) fueled engine of similar size, liquid hydrogen fuel could increase the specific impulse or efficiency of an engine by 40 percent. The combination of hydrogen and oxygen for propellants made the moon shot feasible.