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In the movie Interstellar, the crew of the Ranger launches from Earth from on top of a rocket similar to the SSL. They are on their way to rendezvous with the Endurance spacecraft that will take them on their voyage, so the initial assumption was that the Ranger craft was not single stage to orbit capable.

However, later in the movie we discover that the Ranger space ships are indeed SSO capable as they are able to lift off from the potential colony planets with no external assistance. Further, the Ranger is able to lift off from Miller's planet, which is 130% Earth normal gravity, without any assistance.

It's clear that the Ranger could have lifted off from Earth without the rocket assistance, so why didn't it?

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It might seem extremely minimal, but I always thought it was to conserve fuel. The way they always talked about the resources of fuel and time gave me the sense that even saving an ounce of fuel would be viewed as extremely valuable. So they used a multi stage rocket to break Earth's atmosphere and get the Ranger to the Endurance with minimal fuel consumption. The saved fuel aboard the ranger could then be used to explore the other worlds.

UPDATE:

I forgot that there's always just the fact that the rocket launch into space made the scene a lot heavier, or more epic if you will, than it would have been if they had just hopped in the ranger and took off. So cinematography and the heavy/epic plot tone of the movie could be just as good of a reason as well.

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    The SLS-like rocket used to leave Earth wasn't single stage, they show it staging. – Organic Marble Dec 16 '14 at 2:02
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    I was looking for an answer that was in the context of the movie, but you basically proposed the same answer as my theory: to save fuel. I can think of no other reason myself. From a cinema art point of view, the launch scene was certainly one of the more powerful sequences I've seen in a while. Especially in IMAX where you could feel the seats vibrate from the audio mix. – RESPAWN Dec 16 '14 at 13:28
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    Stellar point @OrganicMarble I saw the movie right when it came out so it's not super fresh in my memory, but now that you mention that I do remember it. Allow me to edit. – AlMar89 Dec 16 '14 at 14:06
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    Sorry, but this logic is absurd. They sent 12 astronauts to Jupiter and beyond, built a rocket that has the thrust of a Titan V in a form that is 1/10th the size, have 4 landing craft on a deep space spaceship that has a crew of 4 people, and yet NASA hasn't figure out how to put a fuel depot in space? – Quarkly Dec 27 '14 at 21:59
  • Launching fuel requires more fuel, which requires even more fuel. My no-prize explanation is that Endurance was the fuel depot for the Lazarus and Endurance missions. That way, the launch that we saw was only to boost the Ranger (and presumably extra supplies) to orbit. – Codes with Hammer Oct 24 '16 at 13:42

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