Author Topic: GE Project Prospector  (Read 10698 times)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #20 on: 04/01/2012 05:08 PM »
there was a good historical paper on Prospector in the JBIS in 1995:
D.L. Burnham "Mobile Explorers and Beasts of Burden: A History of NASA's Prospector and Lunar Logistic Vehicle Projects", vol 48, pp 213-228

Paolo was kind enough to provide me a copy of that article. Not a lot of good illustrations, but here is one of them.

I have not read through the paper, but it also discusses logistics in support of Apollo. I suspect that it only contains a small part of that story, because there were a number of proposals floating around on that subject. I co-wrote an article with Glen Swanson a few years ago about some of Grumman's proposed LEM modifications to support extended duration Apollo missions.

Offline simonbp

Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #21 on: 04/01/2012 06:31 PM »
A couple of pennies-worth from notes assembled at JPL far too many years ago to recall:

Many thanks, that really clears it up!

The ABMA/MSFC surface vehicles grew out of Project Horizon, though I'm not sure if they were the direct impetus for Prospector:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19730064135

Offline plutogno

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #22 on: 04/02/2012 04:50 PM »
this drawing was in a 1960 or 1961 NASA space science brochure

Offline dbaker

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #23 on: 04/02/2012 05:23 PM »
So much crossfeed going on at that time. JPL was striving to make a bigger footprint in the Florida sand and ABMA was sucking ideas up from everyplace to stand tall as it got absorbed into NASA between Oct '59 and Jul '60. Very little forethought on ideas and their implications. Turf protection and a fight for the front row on the grid. Highly turbulent times.

Remember, the only real budget emphasis given by JFK when he became President was for the Saturn rocket; he wasn't interested in Apollo at first. Then from mid-1961 it let rip when he proclaimed the Moon goal and sank so many potentially fabulous unmanned projects. Nothing planned for the Moon that wasn't supporting Apollo was either absorbed, adapted or ditched. The ditched ones never came back.

But some of us post-A17 wanted to continue Moon exploration with unmanned projects such as those canceled for Apollo, to stitch the gap between manned flights to the Moon ending in '72 and restarting, whenever that was to be. All those rovers, all those orbiters and sample return plans...

The only trouble was none of us had strong enough position, loud enough voice or leveraged clout to get that message heard! Except I do recall Carl Sagan listening very hard and mentioning this approach on the Hill.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #24 on: 04/02/2012 06:42 PM »
The only trouble was none of us had strong enough position, loud enough voice or leveraged clout to get that message heard! Except I do recall Carl Sagan listening very hard and mentioning this approach on the Hill.

I'll show my bias, since I work for the NRC, but I wonder to what extent the scientists got involved at that time. Did they ever address the question of "lunar science in the post-Apollo era"?

Of course, the Voyager Mars program had already collapsed, and I imagine that planetary science in general was a mess, so trying to single out plans for the next steps in lunar science got overwhelmed by some other, bigger issues. Certainly the fact that Apollo had returned so much created the overall impression that they didn't need another shot for awhile. But in a rational world, it would have made sense for somebody to specifically address the issue of what science questions Apollo did not answer and how to go about answering them.

Offline dbaker

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #25 on: 04/03/2012 11:26 AM »
If you weren't a Shuttle-junkie, the decade after Apollo was a mess as the NASA budget kept on dropping.

The Nixon-Ford-Carter years (69-80) were lean and mean. Space science funding was on a roller-coaster in this period but 'lunar and planetary' suffered the worst, crashing from $320m in the year of the last Moon missions to $153m by '78. In that same period Shuttle funding soared from $100m to $1.4bn and everyone suffered, L&P the most.

A lot of disheartened people left and never came back. Right at the start of this period ('69) NASA tried to launch the Grand Tour anticipating two s/c in '77 and two in '79 (but that got canceled in '72 under a 'no new starts' policy from Congress) and in '70 OMB chopped the space station leaving STS to thrash around for a broader role. Only in '73 did NASA get the two-shot Voyager outer planets mission set up for launch in '77. As for Mars, Voyager had been canceled back in '67 and in '69 the Viking mission planned for '73 nearly got canceled but was saved at the last minute and pushed back to '75 when NASA ran out of money.

And the Moon in all of this - what's that...?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #26 on: 04/03/2012 06:22 PM »
And the Moon in all of this - what's that...?

I've proposed a paper for a planetary science history conference this fall (paper not accepted yet) that addresses prioritization for planetary science during the history of NASA. In other words, how did the NRC develop planetary science priorities for NASA and how did the agency implement them (or not implement them)? Topics that I'm going to cover include the relatively recent history of the decadal surveys, but also the early years of the Space Science Board and how they pushed the issue of scientist-astronauts on NASA (which didn't really want them for Apollo). I have not done the research, but my impression is that your offhand summary is correct--it didn't matter if the scientists still had ideas about how to explore the Moon after Apollo, because nobody was listening.
« Last Edit: 04/03/2012 06:26 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Jester

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #27 on: 05/07/2013 09:52 AM »
« Last Edit: 05/07/2013 09:52 AM by Jester »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #28 on: 03/20/2015 08:49 PM »
So I've been thinking about writing an article about unbuilt Surveyor proposals and this got me to thinking about Prospector, which got me to searching this site...

And it starts off with an NTRS link from 2012. That was just before The Great Implosion when NTRS just took everything off line. And when they put stuff back online, they didn't bother with the old urls, so all the hyperlinks were now useless. (Think about the implications of that a little bit.)

With some digging (essentially I took the numbers in the NTRS file name and plugged them into the search function on my PC) I found that I still have the document.

So, ta da! Here it is.

Now I just need to find that 1995 JBIS article mentioned in this thread...

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #29 on: 03/20/2015 11:22 PM »
Here is an illustration of the Surveyor Orbiter (from 1963) that was mentioned up-tread.

The picture comes from page 79 (pdf pg 88) of the NTRS document:

"NASA - Industry Program Plans Conference, Washington, D.C. February 11-12, 1963".

Here is the NTRS link to the document.
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19630005481.pdf

« Last Edit: 03/20/2015 11:25 PM by Antilope7724 »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #30 on: 03/21/2015 01:19 AM »
Interesting. The text indicates that it was a current design under study. Obviously it was canceled. I would have to go digging, but I vaguely remember that the cost and timeline for Surveyor Orbiter was too much and so NASA called for a simpler and more straightforward orbiter that would not have instruments only an imager for high quality imagery in support of Apollo.

Of course, the gold is all in the details--for instance, what exactly made Surveyor Orbiter so expensive and time-consuming? My guess is that the camera was not big enough and could not be bigger considering the other planned instruments. So NASA called for a design that put all the emphasis on the camera system.




Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #31 on: 03/21/2015 03:09 AM »
Interesting. The text indicates that it was a current design under study. Obviously it was canceled. I would have to go digging, but I vaguely remember that the cost and timeline for Surveyor Orbiter was too much and so NASA called for a simpler and more straightforward orbiter that would not have instruments only an imager for high quality imagery in support of Apollo.

Of course, the gold is all in the details--for instance, what exactly made Surveyor Orbiter so expensive and time-consuming? My guess is that the camera was not big enough and could not be bigger considering the other planned instruments. So NASA called for a design that put all the emphasis on the camera system.

I think you're right about it being all about the camera system.  The above design for a Surveyor Orbiter had a TV camera system, while Lunar Orbiter employed a film system with onboard photographic development and electronic (though not digital) read-out.  Apollo planners at the time were requiring high-resolution imagery of the proposed Apollo landing sites ASAP, and IIRC the output of the television system would not have been good enough.

Also, ISTR something about Lunar Orbiter being at a considerable advantage in that it was capable of being launched to the Moon on an Atlas-Agena, while Surveyor Orbiter (like the Surveyor Lander) required an Atlas-Centaur.  I don't recall if that more to do with Agena availability or Centaur reliability at the time of the mission planning, though.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #32 on: 03/21/2015 01:08 PM »
Splitting up my response because it's easier that way.

Also, ISTR something about Lunar Orbiter being at a considerable advantage in that it was capable of being launched to the Moon on an Atlas-Agena, while Surveyor Orbiter (like the Surveyor Lander) required an Atlas-Centaur.  I don't recall if that more to do with Agena availability or Centaur reliability at the time of the mission planning, though.

Yeah, that was indeed a consideration. I think that in the early 1960s a lot of programs were baselining the Centaur as their launch vehicle, so it was getting over-subscribed, and at the same time it was running into development problems. So there was a desire to move some of the payloads to other vehicles like Atlas-Agena.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #33 on: 03/21/2015 01:11 PM »
I think you're right about it being all about the camera system.  The above design for a Surveyor Orbiter had a TV camera system, while Lunar Orbiter employed a film system with onboard photographic development and electronic (though not digital) read-out.  Apollo planners at the time were requiring high-resolution imagery of the proposed Apollo landing sites ASAP, and IIRC the output of the television system would not have been good enough.


It would be interesting to understand how the engineering requirements for Apollo translated into design requirements for Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor. For instance, what exactly did they need from a camera in terms of resolution, precision, and amount of territory covered? And why did they think they needed that?

As I understand it, one of the problems with TV systems is that even if the resolution is okay their precision is poor--the distance between any two evenly-space spots on the image will not necessarily be the same. So it gets harder to rely upon that if you're feeding it into a set of calculations.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #34 on: 03/21/2015 01:12 PM »

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #35 on: 03/22/2015 07:59 PM »
I think you're right about it being all about the camera system.  The above design for a Surveyor Orbiter had a TV camera system, while Lunar Orbiter employed a film system with onboard photographic development and electronic (though not digital) read-out.  Apollo planners at the time were requiring high-resolution imagery of the proposed Apollo landing sites ASAP, and IIRC the output of the television system would not have been good enough.


It would be interesting to understand how the engineering requirements for Apollo translated into design requirements for Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor. For instance, what exactly did they need from a camera in terms of resolution, precision, and amount of territory covered? And why did they think they needed that?

As I understand it, one of the problems with TV systems is that even if the resolution is okay their precision is poor--the distance between any two evenly-space spots on the image will not necessarily be the same. So it gets harder to rely upon that if you're feeding it into a set of calculations.

Exactly -- the spatial resolution, I believe it's called, was poor in the television imaging systems of the time, even if pixel resolution could be made to be good.  And while I don't have the official Apollo imaging requirements at hand, I do know that good stereo coverage of each potential landing site was required.  And not just within the landing ellipse -- they wanted good stereo imaging for the terrain overflown during the final stages of the descent trajectory, as well.

This was at least partly so they could model the terrain for the benefit of the guidance computer -- if (as was the case for Site 2, Tranquility Base) there was a general slope of the terrain resulting in a significant difference in mean surface elevation from landing radar lock-on to landing, it helped for the guidance computer to know that.  Site 2 had a general westward-trending downward slope of about four degrees throughout the final miles of the descent trajectory, and the guidance computer used a rough correction subroutine that took this into account.

I'm pretty certain that the TV imaging systems of the time just weren't capable of providing stereo strips good enough to provide the terrain information required by Apollo planners.  And since microgravity film development and electronic read-out had already been developed for reconnaissance satellites and the technology was available, that's what they ended up using.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #36 on: 03/23/2015 12:15 AM »
Exactly -- the spatial resolution, I believe it's called, was poor in the television imaging systems of the time, even if pixel resolution could be made to be good.  And while I don't have the official Apollo imaging requirements at hand, I do know that good stereo coverage of each potential landing site was required.  And not just within the landing ellipse -- they wanted good stereo imaging for the terrain overflown during the final stages of the descent trajectory, as well.

This was at least partly so they could model the terrain for the benefit of the guidance computer -- if (as was the case for Site 2, Tranquility Base) there was a general slope of the terrain resulting in a significant difference in mean surface elevation from landing radar lock-on to landing, it helped for the guidance computer to know that.  Site 2 had a general westward-trending downward slope of about four degrees throughout the final miles of the descent trajectory, and the guidance computer used a rough correction subroutine that took this into account.

I'm pretty certain that the TV imaging systems of the time just weren't capable of providing stereo strips good enough to provide the terrain information required by Apollo planners.  And since microgravity film development and electronic read-out had already been developed for reconnaissance satellites and the technology was available, that's what they ended up using.

Yeah, what you said.

The UPWARD documents address this a bit and I have to look at them again. There's something in there about the resolution requirements and their connection to the size of the LM landing pads. I cannot remember the specifics, however. And slope requirements were important for several reasons, including the fact that they needed a slope below a certain amount so that the LM would not tip over.


Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #37 on: 03/27/2015 07:57 PM »
Surveyor.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #38 on: 03/29/2015 06:33 PM »

Offline Antilope7724

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Re: GE Project Prospector
« Reply #39 on: 03/29/2015 10:37 PM »
Accession Number : AD0273811

Title :   Design of a Power System for a Lunar Mobile Surface Vehicle

Corporate Author : GENERAL ELECTRIC CO SANTA BARBARA CA

Personal Author(s) : Brody, R.H.

Full Text : http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=AD0273811

Report Date : 02 OCT 1961

Pagination or Media Count : 81

Abstract : Available power generators are examined to determine which are applicable to a lunar roving vehicle. Two classes of vehicles are of interest: a 300 lb. Surveyor type vehicle; a 3000 lb. Prospector type vehicle. It is concluded that a solar cell-battery combination is best and a design is presented for each vehicle, specifying important power system parameters.

Descriptors :   *LUNAR SURFACE VEHICLES, ELECTROCHEMISTRY, SURFACE PROPERTIES, SOLAR CELLS, SILICON, MOBILE, ELECTRIC POWER PRODUCTION, MOON, THERMIONIC EMISSION, THERMOELECTRICITY, PRIMARY BATTERIES

Subject Categories : ASTRONAUTICS
      SNAP(SYSTEMS FOR NUCLEAR AUXILLIARY POWER), TECH

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/273811.pdf
« Last Edit: 03/29/2015 10:38 PM by Antilope7724 »

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