Author Topic: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961  (Read 3142 times)

Offline paulb

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Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« on: 02/07/2018 03:48 PM »
Hello everyone--new here. I've read a bit about the USA manned spaceflight programs, but realize there's one subject I never thought to question. Project Mercury was begun in the late 50s, Alan Shepherd's first flight was in early May of '61, and JFKs speech to Congress announcing the moon shot came a few weeks after Shepherd's flight. Does anyone know what, if anything, NASA had in mind as the successor to Project Mercury before JFK pointed the agency to the moon? Was it already thinking moon? Was it thinking earth orbiting space station? Space plane? Or was it just struggling with Mercury and not thinking about anything post-Mercury? Seems as if the original seven astronauts would have expected there to be something to follow Mercury, during those first years it was in development.

Offline Jim

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #1 on: 02/07/2018 04:26 PM »
Hello everyone--new here. I've read a bit about the USA manned spaceflight programs, but realize there's one subject I never thought to question. Project Mercury was begun in the late 50s, Alan Shepherd's first flight was in early May of '61, and JFKs speech to Congress announcing the moon shot came a few weeks after Shepherd's flight. Does anyone know what, if anything, NASA had in mind as the successor to Project Mercury before JFK pointed the agency to the moon? Was it already thinking moon? Was it thinking earth orbiting space station? Space plane? Or was it just struggling with Mercury and not thinking about anything post-Mercury? Seems as if the original seven astronauts would have expected there to be something to follow Mercury, during those first years it was in development.


Apollo was started before Kennedy's speech

Offline paulb

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #2 on: 02/07/2018 05:11 PM »
Thank you, Ed and Jim. Concise.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #3 on: 02/07/2018 05:27 PM »
Hello everyone--new here. I've read a bit about the USA manned spaceflight programs, but realize there's one subject I never thought to question. Project Mercury was begun in the late 50s, Alan Shepherd's first flight was in early May of '61, and JFKs speech to Congress announcing the moon shot came a few weeks after Shepherd's flight. Does anyone know what, if anything, NASA had in mind as the successor to Project Mercury before JFK pointed the agency to the moon? Was it already thinking moon? Was it thinking earth orbiting space station? Space plane? Or was it just struggling with Mercury and not thinking about anything post-Mercury? Seems as if the original seven astronauts would have expected there to be something to follow Mercury, during those first years it was in development.


Apollo was started before Kennedy's speech

NASA, in fact, had begun concept studies for Apollo well before the Moon decision.  Some of the first discussions began in 1959, with serious discussions going on through most of 1960.  The follow-on program gained the name "Apollo" in 1960, and was being defined as a 3-man spacecraft that would be capable of missions up to 14 days and making circumlunar voyages.

The program, though not as clearly defined as it would have been had there been a Design Reference Mission (something not really done until 1963), would have been for a couple of different types of missions.  It would have flown the notional Uprated Saturn C-1 into low Earth orbit for up to two weeks, doing medical experiments on microgravity health impacts.  It also would have flown the notional Saturn C-2 into figure-8 free return circumlunar flights.

At the time the Moon decision was made, NASA was deep into the process of doing their own spacecraft design and also contracting out to several different firms for their best concepts for the vehicle.  After the Moon decision, they went ahead with Apollo contracting for the circumlunar spacecraft, with the knowledge that the winner of the Apollo bid would work on adapting it to a lunar landing mission.

I would imagine that, had the Moon decision not been made at that time, Apollo may well have been expanded from circumlunar to lunar orbit missions, likely with the upgrading of its Saturn booster and the upgrading of its own propulsion system.  But this Apollo would have been more instrumental in building a LEO station for construction of a true lunar spacecraft in LEO, built not for hit-and-runs but full-on lunar expeditions.  Apollo would have had a secondary task of scouting the Moon, taking good photos of landing sites, etc.

Gemini was only motivated by the need to have a bridging program between Mercury and Apollo, which would not likely have been needed without the time pressure of landing on the Moon within the decade..  But, to be honest, the were discussions of "Mercury Mark II" as early as 1960, as well.  Which evolved into Gemini.  So, depending on the outlook for the time to develop Apollo, you might still have seen Gemini in some form.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline Arch Admiral

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #4 on: 02/08/2018 05:26 AM »
This pre-Moon Race version of Apollo had an unfortunate effect on the final lunar spacecraft. The planners, with no actual spaceflight experience, arbitrarily chose a 3-man crew on the basis of the 3-watch system on ships. They expected one astronaut would always be on duty, watching the instruments and talking to the ground controllers.  Gemini experience showed that it was impossible for one man to sleep while the other one was working, and the crews shifted over to both living on Houston time.  But by this time the 3-man Apollo CM was set in stone. If Apollo had actually been designed after Gemini, it would probably have had a 2-man CM, without the underemployed "Command Module Pilot".  The whole project would have been much cheaper, with a Saturn C-3 or C-4 booster.

Gemini was far more than a "bridging program". The techniques of rendevous, docking, and EVA spacesuits were all worked out in Gemini, much sooner and cheaper than with a long series of Earth-orbit Apollo missions.

Offline Archibald

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #5 on: 02/08/2018 06:22 AM »
https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/report59.html  :)

Quote

1965-1967

    First launching in a program leading to manned circumlunar flight and to permanent near- earth space station.

Beyond 1970

    Manned flight to the moon. . . .
« Last Edit: 02/08/2018 06:25 AM by Archibald »
... that ackward moment when you realize that Jeff Bezos personal fortune is far above NASA annual budget... 115 billion to 18 billion...

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #6 on: 02/08/2018 09:17 AM »
Gemini was only motivated by the need to have a bridging program between Mercury and Apollo, which would not likely have been needed without the time pressure of landing on the Moon within the decade..  But, to be honest, the were discussions of "Mercury Mark II" as early as 1960, as well.  Which evolved into Gemini.  So, depending on the outlook for the time to develop Apollo, you might still have seen Gemini in some form.

I had the impression (could well be wrong) that the thing driving Gemini was the realization that rendezvous and docking would be a good thing to try out as soon as possible.  Direct ascent having been, as edkyle99 noted above, the initial concept as to how Apollo would someday reach the moon, rendezvous was not initially seen as so important.  When EOR and even LOR schemes started to catch on, a testing ground for rendezvous became an urgent need.

Offline carmelo

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #7 on: 02/11/2018 03:01 PM »
For what i know,the very American early space program was this:
Mercury missions suborbitals (in 1959 a lot of suborbitals flight were planning) and orbital missions until 1964.
Apollo program (that was as announced in July 1960) would have started in 1965 with a capsule similiar to block 1 and the saturn C1 as launch vehicle.
You imagine this Apollo program very similiar as goals to Gemini program.
Three Astronauts that mission after mission achieve EVAs,rendez vous in orbit,docking with targets,long duration missions ( 14 days).
All this until 1967 circa.
After (1968-69) were talks about a wet workshop Saturn  derived or a sort of self-developing space station wheel,or inflatable or articulated.
In 1970 circa was expected the first circumlunar flight of a manned apollo capsule.

Offline carmelo

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #8 on: 02/11/2018 03:49 PM »
Here is a scheme of the very early American space program as thought in 1960.
Note the Apollo service module for low earth orbit mission.
Note also the Apollo capsule that flight to the station in the artwork.

I don't know the expectations for 70s,but i think a winged reusable space ferry,a more large space station and a moon landing approximately in 1975 or so.
« Last Edit: 02/11/2018 03:49 PM by carmelo »

Offline Michel Van

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #9 on: 02/11/2018 08:02 PM »
Apollo BEFORE Kennedy "We Shall Go to Moon" was quite different system as it Became known

Early Apollo Studies in around 1960/61
Were Spacecraft would be small manned Space station for 3 men in low earth orbit.
means a lab section and return capsule

like Apollo Martin 410 (one of many configurations)


 
or Apollo Convair

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #10 on: 02/27/2018 05:05 PM »
Quite by accident, I've just found the report of the Fleming Committee, which was chartered in early 1961 to establish the feasibility of an early manned lunar landing.  The report is in two volumes, the first, attached, being the summary.  As the second volume is over 300 MB in size, I provide only a link.

The report is based on a Nova-boosted direct-landing mission, though test flights on Saturn C-1 and C-3 rockets are also presented in some detail.  Both liquid and solid stages are considered for the C-3 and Nova.  Of the engine developments mentioned, one is the Y-1, which I presume is for lunar landing or take-off, but I've not yet figured that out was a lox-hydrogen engine of 800,000 pounds thrust of which four were to have powered the second stage of the Nova.

The direct-landing trajectory seems to involve making nearly a full orbit around the moon in the prograde direction.  I can readily see why a slightly round-about approach is preferred: if the lunar surface were targeted directly from TLI, then engine failure would result in crashing on the moon.  But I wonder why a prograde approach is preferred.  As everybody knows, Apollo used retrograde orbits.

If anyone comes across the reports of the other major committees of the era -- Goette, Low, Lundin, Heaton, Golovin -- please do share.  For that matter the full report of the Silverstein Committee (which defined the Saturn rockets) would be of great interest too.
« Last Edit: 03/01/2018 02:40 PM by Proponent »

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #11 on: 03/03/2018 04:31 PM »
Looking through second volume of the report, where the details are, I see that a conventional retrograde lunar orbit was foreseen.  The diagrams showing a prograde orbit were probably just artist's impressions created before the detailed analysis had been performed.

Seeing that the plan actually called for entering into a retrograde parking orbit before descending to the surface, then, is not a big surprise.  What surprised me more is that the return leg was also to entail a parking orbit.  I had thought that a parking orbit would be of little use: with the moon nearly tidally locked, a parking orbit offers no launch-window advantages.  But then it occurred to me that a direct ascent  to earth from the lunar near side probably involves relatively large gravity losses, since much of the powered trajectory would probably be close to vertical.

For the lunar landing mission, it was expected that the spacecraft (including lunar-landing stage) would weigh 150,000 lb, i.e., that was the mass to be injected into a trans-lunar trajectory.  It's little scary to imagine the weight growth that would have occurred had this approach been chosen for Apollo.  For one, the actual CSM weighed about 65,000 lb wet, but this study allows only 54,500 lb (p. 31 of the PDF attached above).  On top of that, the lunar-landing stage was assumed to burn lox-hydrogen, whereas the actual LM used lower-Isp storable propellants.  The actual Apollo certainly had its problems with weight growth, but I'll bet these would have been worse.

EDIT: Typo
« Last Edit: 03/04/2018 10:12 PM by Proponent »

Offline Mr Fogbank

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #12 on: 03/21/2018 05:48 PM »
This pre-Moon Race version of Apollo had an unfortunate effect on the final lunar spacecraft. The planners, with no actual spaceflight experience, arbitrarily chose a 3-man crew on the basis of the 3-watch system on ships.

I've often wondered whether the consumables savings with crew of 2 was ever considered for Apollo. On at least one LM descent, the CDR asked the LMP to please stop reading the altitude numbers and be quiet, leaving the LMP to look out the window!

There is no doubt an argument for a crew of 3 (2 guys on the lunar surface) accomplishing almost 2X what a lone man on the surface might.

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #13 on: 03/22/2018 06:26 PM »
This pre-Moon Race version of Apollo had an unfortunate effect on the final lunar spacecraft. The planners, with no actual spaceflight experience, arbitrarily chose a 3-man crew on the basis of the 3-watch system on ships.

I've often wondered whether the consumables savings with crew of 2 was ever considered for Apollo. On at least one LM descent, the CDR asked the LMP to please stop reading the altitude numbers and be quiet, leaving the LMP to look out the window!

There is no doubt an argument for a crew of 3 (2 guys on the lunar surface) accomplishing almost 2X what a lone man on the surface might.

Funny you should mention that...

Apollo was originally proposed as a circumlunar spacecraft.  There would be two major versions -- an earth-orbital, with a smaller service module, and a circumlunar, with a somewhat larger service module.  Launched by what was then called a Saturn C-2 (with two F-1 engines in its first stage), it could not be heavy enough to carry enough propellants to go into lunar orbit.  But it could support a figure-8 lunar trajectory rather like Apollo 13 eventually flew.

At that time, the Space Task Group (STG) guys who were running Mercury, and proposing this Apollo as a follow-on project, felt it should have three-man crews because it would be aloft for days -- maybe even weeks -- and, like a submarine, they figured they needed to keep one guy awake at all times to monitor systems.  A three-man crew makes a sleep rotation a lot easier to set up.  (And such a sleep rotation was actually used on Apollos 7, 8 and, after the accident, 13.)

When Apollo was gifted with the end-of-the-decade deadline, the first thought was to build an enormous rocket, Nova, put this circumlunar Apollo on top of it, along with a landing stage, and land that whole thing on the Moon.  But developing Nova was likely going to take more time than NASA had to meet their deadline, so they ended up going with the LEM approach (Lunar Orbit Rendezvous, or LOR).  The CSM plus LM spacecraft could be launched on a single Saturn C-5 (as it was called then), but to land the entire CSM on the Moon you needed either a bigger rocket for something more direct (like the Nova approach), or two Saturn V launches (the Earth Orbit Rendezvous, or EOR, approach).

So, when LOR was selected, the crew size of three was perfect -- two guys go land in the LM, and one guy maintains the CSM and acts as a rescue vehicle in the case of messed-up rendezvous approaches.

But several people could not get over an innate distrust of doing a life-critical rendezvous around the Moon.  They thought that just about *any* other approach would be safer.

So, they (including the President's Science Advisor, Jerome Weisner) counter-proposed a two-man Apollo CSM that could be downsized and landed directly on the Moon with a single Saturn V launch.  NASA had looked into that already, though, an determined they would lose the 16 months or so of development work North American had already put in on the three-man Apollo, and thus they'd blow the deadline that way.

However, it's good to know that your speculation was shared by some important people back when the decisions were being made on how to get to the Moon.

And, BTW -- the Russians would have gone to the Moon with two guys, only one of whom would have landed.  So, your idea was how they would actually have done it.

Good show!
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Online Jim Davis

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #14 on: 03/23/2018 01:03 AM »

Launched by what was then called a Saturn C-2 (with two F-1 engines in its first stage)...

Actually, it was the C-3 that was to have 2 F-1s in the first stage. The C-2 had the the same first stage as the C-1 but with 8 uprated H-1s.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #15 on: 03/23/2018 01:33 AM »
... they (including the President's Science Advisor, Jerome Weisner) counter-proposed a two-man Apollo CSM that could be downsized and landed directly on the Moon with a single Saturn V launch.  NASA had looked into that already....

The attached paper sheds some light on the two-man direct ("C-5 direct") -- see page 7.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #16 on: 03/23/2018 01:44 AM »
... it was the C-3 that was to have 2 F-1s in the first stage. The C-2 had the the same first stage as the C-1 but with 8 uprated H-1s.

Source for uprated H-1's being used on the C-2?

The Saturns as defined by the Silverstein Committee (1st attachment to this post) included a C-3 the first stage of which was an S-I with either upgraded H-1's or four H-1's and one F-1, but I was not aware of upgraded engines being suggested for the C-2.

Online Jim Davis

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #17 on: 03/23/2018 02:17 PM »
Source for uprated H-1's being used on the C-2?

I thought I read that in Bilstein's Stages to Saturn but I can't find the reference so I'll withdraw the comment. The Saturn IB had uprated H-1s so it seems logical the the C-2 would also but of course that doesn't mean it was intended.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #18 on: 03/24/2018 01:24 AM »
It does seem reasonable that the C-2, once the 4 x J-2 S-II became its second stage, would have needed more thrust in the first stage.

Offline Proponent

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #19 on: 04/14/2018 11:37 AM »
... they (including the President's Science Advisor, Jerome Weisner) counter-proposed a two-man Apollo CSM that could be downsized and landed directly on the Moon with a single Saturn V launch.  NASA had looked into that already....

The attached paper sheds some light on the two-man direct ("C-5 direct") -- see page 7.

And here's a report on C-5 direct.

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