Author Topic: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961  (Read 1211 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 edkyle99

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #2 on: 02/07/2018 05:01 PM »
The Apollo program was announced in July 1960.  It was to follow Mercury.  It would use Saturn launch vehicles (Saturn C-1 and C-2) to go to low earth orbit, build a small space station, and, perhaps, do circumlunar missions.  The thinking then was that a bigger rocket named Nova would later, sometime after 1970, be developed for lunar landing missions.

In May 1961, after Gagarin orbited and Shepard flew a suborbital hop, JFK redirected Apollo toward a crash effort to beat the Soviets to the Moon.  Only then did NASA begin to study bigger Saturn rocket designs (C-3, C-4, and finally C-5) for the mission.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 02/07/2018 05:04 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline paulb

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #3 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 #4 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 #5 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 #6 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 #7 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 edkyle99

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #8 on: 02/08/2018 03:47 PM »
The timing of the early-Apollo program is why NASA ended up with a mobile launch complex at LC 39.  When JFK made his decision, NASA was in the early planning stages for a new launch site for Saturns and Novas.  A critical question was "how many launches per year?".  Von Braun's group projected 100 C-2 launches/year in 1960, then scaled that back to maybe 40-50 per year by early 1961.  Then they canceled C-2 in favor of the F-1 boosted C-3 design in April 1961.  Planning at the time called for a launch mode/site decision to be made in a year or three. 

Then JFK made his speech, on May 25, 1961, and a wild rush began to decide everything quickly, because the launch site would need to be built right now.  Saturn C-3 was still the official plan when the big decisions were made, and von Braun's  group was still projecting 30-40 launches per year.  Thus, a mobile launch site.

Bigger Saturns (C-4 and C-5) didn't evolve on the design tables until late in the year (1961).  Land purchases began in 1962.  While LC 39 was designed specifically for Saturn 5 in the end, the basic concept using the VAB and the mobile launchers was decided upon when much larger numbers of launches were expected.  In the end it turned out that NASA could have executed Apollo using a small number of traditional, probably cheaper launch complexes.   

Ironically, the most launches ever performed at LC 39 in one calendar year was the 12 last year, from one pad, using the Soviet-style horizontal processing method.

 - Ed Kyle 
« Last Edit: 02/08/2018 03:56 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline carmelo

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Re: Manned Flight Plans Before May 1961
« Reply #9 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 #10 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 #11 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

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