Thursday, January 24, 2013

The proper course for lunar exploration (1965)

MOLAB with side-mounted drill and Apollo LEM as conceived in 1964-1965. The MOLAB would have arrived on the moon ahead of the piloted LEM on an unmanned LEM Truck [Bendix/NASA].
David S.F. Portree
Beyond Apollo

For a time, Thomas Evans headed up the Advanced Lunar Missions Study Program in the NASA Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight. By the time of the 11th Annual Meeting of the American Astronautical Society (AAS) in May 1965, however, he had retired from NASA and become a farmer in Iowa. This gave him the freedom to speak his mind about what he felt were the Apollo Program’s shortcomings.

Evans told assembled members of the AAS that “the idea of a manned [landing] on the moon was so spectacular. . .that [it] dominated most pronouncements and thoughts on the space program.” He argued, however, that this objective had “too much the flavor of a stunt to be the final goal of a $20 billion national effort.” Evans maintained that
[Our] situation today is comparable to one which might have occurred during the railroad building era in America a century ago. It is as if the federal government had invested vast sums in the construction of the first railroad spanning the North American continent, but had procurred only a single engine and caboose. . . The first crossing by that engine and caboose would have been a major milestone in man’s progress and would have been greeted with enthusiasm and applause. But then those responsible for the program would have faced a major decision. . .Should the project be stopped? Should the engine-caboose be run repeatedly back and forth across the Continent to constantly remind the world of our great achievement? Or should a further modest investment be made in. . .some freight and passenger cars, to convert the system into something of practical value? Only the last solution would have been tenable then, and only a similar constructive approach would seem acceptable now.
 Evans argued that the Saturn rockets and Apollo spacecraft NASA had under development would provide “an excellent base upon which to build a broad program of manned. . .lunar exploration beyond the first landing.” Evans pointed to statements by President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Vice-President Hubert Humphrey which he said made clear that “the United States fully intends to explore the moon, not merely to visit it.” He also noted that NASA expected to be able to launch six Saturn V rockets per year beginning in 1969.

Read the full article, HERE.

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