Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning

Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning is one of Apogee’s many excellent compilations of original NASA material, in this case as a “Special Web Site Limited Edition”. It’s compiled from a variety of NASA documents – I’m assuming they’re the publications given in the bibliography – dating from 1965 to 1967, but edited into the format present in Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning by Robert Godwin.

NASA had originally planned for Apollo missions up to Apollo 20, but the last three were cancelled in 1970. The Saturn V for one of these was used to launch Skylab in 1973, and Apollo 18 became the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Which is something of a shame as NASA’s plans for lunar exploration were extremely ambitious.

These plans involved stays on the lunar surface of up to a fortnight, using a series of augmented Apollo spacecraft. These included the LM Truck, an uncrewed Lunar Module without an ascent stage which could land a payload of 10,000 lbs on the lunar surface, and the LM Shelter, also uncrewed but with an ascent stage cabin in which the astronauts could live on the lunar surface. Grumman, the builders of the LM, also intended to create a series of Augmented Lunar Modules, which could carry greater payloads to the Moon.

Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning presents in eighteen sections a series of diagrams, tabular data and explanatory text covering the spacecraft and their capabilities, operational considerations, lunar extravehicular activities, experiment modules, equipment requirements, launch vehicle characteristics, and hardware and mission costs. Section X, for example, covers “Lunar Mobility”, with line-drawings of a lunar roving vehicle, a six-wheeled lunar truck, a mobile laboratory-type vehicle, and a lunar flying unit for a single astronaut.

I have no idea how much information was used to compile Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning, although I suspect the book’s 95 pages only give a small sample of the wealth of information put together by NASA and Grumman on future extended missions to the Moon. Personally, I am fascinated by what Apollo could have been. It is, I suppose, science fiction, even now nearly forty years after the last Saturn V flew. And Project Constellation, the US plan to return to the Moon using the Orion and Altair spacecraft, has also recently become science fiction.

Twelve men walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, and four of them lived there for three days. That was intended to be only the start. Later missions would last two weeks, or would see astronauts roving the surface in a mobile habitat. And then, perhaps, moon bases…

The US never went back. True, there has been a continuous human presence in Low Earth Orbit on the ISS since October 2000, and prior to that from September 1989 to August 1999 on Mir. But no person has left Earth orbit since Apollo 17, and only robots have since visited the Moon. Yet during the early days of the Apollo programme, NASA dreamed of doing more than simply “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”. Those dreams were treated seriously, and a great deal of work and research was put into documenting them. Some of that work is evident is Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning – charts giving the difference in time taken to perform tasks in a spacesuit in lunar gravity compared to a shirt-sleeves environment in 1G, graphs showing lbs of expendables versus lunar stay-time in days, diagrams of the Lunar Module and LM Shelter…

It is, perhaps, fitting that the final section of Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning covers “Hardware and Mission Costs” as the financial burden of Apollo was one of the reasons for its demise. According to the data in Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning, a 14-day lunar mission would have cost $464.5 million in 1960s dollars – approximately $3.25 billion in 2010 (having said that, the war in Iraq has cost the US over $700 billion to date).

To anyone interested in the future plans for Apollo, as laid out in the 1960s, Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning is an excellent resource. Recommended.

Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning, edited by Robert Godwin (2007, Apogee Books, ISBN 978-1-894959-80-3, 95pp + references and bibliography)

One Response to “Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning”

  1. “Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning” - Out of the Cradle Says:

    […] Godwin, Robert (ed.) “Apollo Advanced Lunar Exploration Planning” Apogee Books 11/2007 ISBN: 978-1-894-95980-3 Publisher’s Web Site A Space About Books About Space Review […]

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