18 November 2017

Pioneer Mars Orbiter (1974)

Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO) in Venus Orbit. The Pioneer Mars Orbiter (PMO) would have been based on this design. Image credit: Hughes Aerospace.
The name "Pioneer" was applied to several different space missions and spacecraft designs. The first U.S. moon probes, launched by the Air Force in 1958-59, bore the name. Though Pioneers 0 through 3 failed, Pioneer 4 flew by the moon at a distance of 60,000 kilometers in March 1959. It became the first U.S. spacecraft to escape Earth's gravity and enter orbit around the Sun.

Pioneer 5 (March 1960), a new-design spacecraft like no other Pioneer, was a pathfinder for interplanetary missions. It set a new record by transmitting until it was 36.2 million kilometers from Earth.

In 1965, NASA's Ames Research Center (ARC) took over the series name for its interplanetary "weather stations." The first, Pioneer 6, entered solar orbit between Earth and Venus in December 1965, where it monitored magnetic fields and radiation. Pioneers 7, 8, and 9 performed similarly prosaic (and generally little noticed) missions.

Pioneer 4, last of the U.S. Air Force Pioneers, shown attached to its small solid-propellant upper stage. The spacecraft, the first successful Pioneer, measured about 30 centimeters from pointy top to flat bottom. Image credit: NASA
Pioneer 5, the first wholly NASA-operated spacecraft in the series, served as a pathfinder for subsequent U.S. planetary missions. Image credit: NASA
Pioneers 6 through 9 were drum-shaped spacecraft that measured "space weather" conditions in interplanetary space near Earth's orbit. Image credit: NASA
The name regained star status when Pioneer 10 left Earth in March 1972. It became the first spacecraft to brave the Asteroid Belt and fly past Jupiter. Pioneer 11 launched in April 1973, bound for Jupiter and Saturn. It went silent in 1995. Pioneer 10 sent its last signal from beyond Pluto in 2003.

The final Pioneer launches occurred in 1978. The Pioneer Venus Multiprobe spacecraft dropped four instrumented capsules on Venus, while Pioneer Venus Orbiter (PVO) surveyed the planet until 1992. The latter was informally designated Pioneer 12 and the former Pioneer 13.

Nuclear-powered Pioneers 10 and 11, Earth's first outer Solar System probes, were virtual twins. Image credit: NASA
Pioneer Venus Multiprobe deploys its one large and three small atmosphere probes. Two survived landing and return data from the surface of Venus - the only U.S. spacecraft to land on Venus. Image credit: NASA
If Hughes Aircraft had had its way, the Pioneer name might also have been applied to a Mars spacecraft. In a 1974 report, it described a Pioneer Mars Orbiter (PMO) derived from the Hughes PVO spacecraft design. It described the planned PVO as drum 2.5 meters in diameter and 1.2 meters long with a 3.3-meter antenna mast on top and a solid-propellant Venus orbit insertion motor on the bottom.

The report cited differences between the PMO and PVO designs: for example, its orbit insertion motor would need to be larger since PMO would arrive at Mars traveling faster than PVO would arrive at Venus. In addition, PMO would operate in Mars orbit, about twice as far from the Sun as Venus, so solar cells for making electricity would entirely cover its sides. PVO would operate in Venus orbit, so it would be only partly covered with solar cells.

The most obvious difference between the PVO and PMO designs would be the Mars spacecraft's six 2.3-meter-long, 0.3-meter-diameter penetrator launch tubes. These would replace PVO's science instruments; apart from unspecified instruments in the penetrators, PMO would carry no science payload.

PMO, like PVO, would leave Earth on an two-stage Atlas-Centaur rocket. Because PMO would weigh more than PVO (1091 kilograms versus 523 kilograms), however, it would need a solid-propellant third stage to complete Earth escape. To make room for the third stage and penetrators, PMO's conical launch shroud would be 0.8 meters longer than its PVO counterpart.

PMO would need to reach Mars on 7 September 1980 so that its Mars orbit insertion motor could place it in its planned Mars orbit. To reach the planet on that date, PMO would need to depart Earth during one of 10 consecutive daily launch opportunities starting on 28 October 1979. 2 November 1979 would be the nominal launch date. The launch opportunities would only last from 10 to 15 minutes each.

The Centaur second stage would place PMO in a low-Earth orbit, then would ignite again 30 minutes later to begin pushing the spacecraft out of Earth orbit. The third-stage motor would then ignite to place PMO on course for Mars. PMO would weigh 1069 kilograms after third-stage separation. Launch on 2 November 1979 would yield a 310-day Earth-Mars transfer.

Following third-stage separation, PMO would use hydrazine thrusters to set itself spinning at 15 revolutions per minute (RPM) for stabilization. The antenna mast, bearing a low-gain antenna and a dish-shaped high-gain antenna, would revolve in the opposite direction at the same rate, so would appear to stand still. Controllers on Earth would use the thrusters to carefully target PMO so that it would not accidentally hit Mars and introduce terrestrial microbes. They would perform a final course correction 30 days before Mars arrival.

One day out from Mars, on 6 September 1980, PMO would orient itself for its Mars orbit insertion burn and increase its spin rate to 30 RPM. The spacecraft's high-gain antenna would not point at Earth during the insertion burn. Controllers on Earth could, however, send PMO commands through the low-gain antenna.

PMO would reach Mars late in northern hemisphere summer, when the planet's south polar cap would be near its maximum extent. Hughes Aircraft proposed two possible elliptical Mars orbits - south polar and north polar - each with a period of 24.6 hours (one martian day) and a periapsis (low point) of 1000 kilometers. South polar orbit periapsis would occur above a point on Mars's surface 72° south of the equator, while north polar orbit periapsis would occur above a point at 37° north latitude. The spacecraft's high periapsis altitude would serve to forestall orbital decay, helping to ensure that PMO would not drop living terrestrial microbes on Mars. PMO would have a mass of 741 kilograms after orbit insertion.

The PMO mission's Mars orbit phase would last one martian year (686 terrestrial days). During this mission phase, PMO would deploy its six 45-kilogram penetrators singly and in pairs using a penetrator deployment system based on the Hughes-built TOW missile launcher. Prior to launch from Earth, the penetrators would be sealed inside their launch tubes and heated to kill microbes.

Pioneer Mars Orbiter deploys a penetrator slightly different from the one described in its August 1974 study. Image credit: Hughes Aerospace
Penetrator deployment would occur near apoapsis (orbit high point). Hinged covers would open on the ends of the launch tube, then the solid-propellant deployment rocket motor would ignite so that the penetrator would leave the tube and fall from orbit. The dome-nosed penetrator would drop through Mars's atmosphere and implant itself in the surface up to 15 meters deep.

After impact, the penetrator would extend its antenna and begin transmitting data from its science instruments. Two antennas on PMO's mast would receive penetrator radio signals, which the spacecraft would record for relay to Earth through the high-gain dish. For their weak signals to be received, the penetrators would need to impact the surface not far from PMO's periapsis point.

PMO could maintain radio contact with a given penetrator for at least eight minutes at a time. A PMO in south polar orbit would initially place its penetrators between 63° and 87° south; a north-polar-orbiting PMO would place them between 56° and 80° north. Periapsis would gradually shift north or south, however, permitting placement at other latitudes. With all six penetrators deployed, PMO would have a mass of 412 kilograms.

Source

Pioneer Mars Surface Penetrator Mission: Mission Analysis and Orbiter Design, Hughes Aircraft Company, August 1974

More Information

The Russians are Roving! The Russians are Roving! A 1970 JPL Plan for a 1979 Mars Rover 

Prelude to Mars Sample Return: the Mars 1984 Mission (1977)

12 November 2017

A CSM-Only Back-Up Plan for the Apollo 13 Mission to the Moon (1970)

The Apollo 13 crew of Commander James Lovell (left), Command Module Pilot John "Jack" Swigert (center), and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise (right). Image credit: NASA
Launch of Apollo 13, the planned third Apollo moon landing, was just two months in the future when NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) engineer Rocky Duncan proposed an alternate plan for the mission. He noted that Apollo 13 would mark the first flight of the Hycon Lunar Topographic Camera (LTC), a modified U.S. Air Force KA-74 aerial reconnaissance camera, which would be mounted in the Command and Service Module (CSM) crew hatch window for high-resolution overlapping photography of candidate future Apollo landing sites.

In Apollo Program parlance, this was dubbed "bootstrap photography." It took advantage of the piloted CSM, which had to loiter in lunar orbit anyway to collect the lunar surface crew after they completed their mission, to collect data useful for planning future Apollo missions.

Duncan noted that previous Apollo lunar missions had followed a "free-return" path that would enable them to loop behind the moon and fall back to Earth if their CSM Service Propulsion System (SPS) main engine failed. The Apollo 13 CSM, on the other hand, would fire its engine during the voyage to the moon to leave the free-return trajectory. This was necessary so that the mission's Lunar Module (LM) could reach its target landing site at Fra Mauro.

The Apollo 13 Saturn V rocket clears the tower. Image credit: NASA
A day after launch from Earth, the Apollo 13 crew ignited the CSM Odyssey's Service Propulsion System (SPS) main engine to leave the free-return trajectory that would automatically return them to Earth in the event of an SPS failure. This was required to permit the mission to reach its destination, the scientifically significant Fra Mauro landing site. Image credit: NASA
The MSC engineer then described a scenario in which the Apollo 13 LM was judged to be "NO-GO" soon after Trans-Lunar Injection (TLI), the maneuver that would boost them from low-Earth orbit and place them on course for the moon. TLI would occur about two hours after launch; it would use the Saturn V S-IVB third stage with its single J-2 engine. Following TLI, the CSM would separate from the segmented shroud - the Spacecraft Launch Adapter - linking it to the S-IVB stage; the shroud would then peel back to reveal the LM. The crew would dock their CSM with the port on top of the LM and separate it from the S-IVB stage. Presumably soon after maneuvering away from the S-IVB they would discover the fault that would render their LM unable to land on the moon.

Apollo 13 would then become a "CSM-only lunar alternate photographic mission." The CSM would remain on a free-return path until it reached the moon, then its crew would perform a standard two-impulse lunar orbit insertion (LOI) maneuver; that is, they would fire the SPS to slow their CSM so that the moon's gravity could capture it into an elliptical lunar orbit, then would fire the engine again at perilune (the low point of its lunar orbit) to circularize its orbit.

Duncan noted that some "desirable photographic orbits with high inclinations. . .require a three-impulse LOI." He argued, however, that "since the crew has not been trained for this type of LOI. . .this type of profile [should] not be flown."

In Duncan's alternate mission, Apollo 13 would capture into a lunar orbit that would take it over the craters Censorinus and Mösting C. These were, respectively, ranked first and eleventh in priority on the Apollo 13 list of targets for lunar-orbital photography.
Censorinus was the leading landing site candidate for Apollo 15, which at the time Duncan wrote his memo was planned as an H-class mission similar to Apollo 13 (that is, its LM would not carry a Lunar Roving Vehicle and would remain on the moon for only about a day and a half). Apollo 12 in November 1969 had been the first H-class mission, so had been designated H-1; Apollo 13 was H-2, Apollo 14 would be H-3, and Apollo 15 would be H-4, the final H-class flight.

Duncan advocated delaying the crew's scheduled sleep period by two lunar revolutions to enable them to photograph Censorinus and Mösting C. The photographic program would begin during Revolution 3 with vertical stereo photography using window-mounted Hasselblad cameras. Revolution 4 would see the first high-resolution vertical Hycon LTC photography, then the astronauts would conduct high-resolution oblique (side-looking) LTC photography during Revolution 5. They would perform "landmark tracking" using the CSM's wide-field scanning telescope (a part of its navigation system) during Revolutions 6 and 7, then would begin their delayed sleep period.

The Apollo 13 crew would awaken during Revolution 12 and fire the SPS to change their spacecraft's orbital plane (that is, the angle at which its orbit crossed the moon's equator). They would do this so that, beginning with Revolution 14, they would pass over Descartes, a suspected volcanic site in the moon's light-colored central Highlands, and Davy Rille, a chain of small craters of suspected volcanic origin. The astronauts would repeat the five-revolution photography sequence they used to image Censorinus and Mösting C. Duncan noted that Descartes ranked second on the Apollo 13 list of photographic targets, while Davy was fourth.

Duncan briefly considered a scenario in which the Apollo 13 LM was incapable of landing yet had a working descent engine which the crew could use to perform plane-change maneuvers in lunar orbit. He noted that the LM would block some CSM windows while it was docked. The astronauts might undock the CSM from the LM for photography and dock again for additional plane changes, or they might discard the LM after only a single plane change. Duncan favored a simpler approach: jettison the LM as soon as it was judged to be incapable of landing whether its descent engine was functional or not and use only the CSM SPS.

The astronauts would perform "target of opportunity" photography during Revolutions 18 and 19, then would sleep. They would wake during Revolution 24 and perform a plane change during Revolution 25 so that they could fly over Alphonsus crater, Gassendi West, and Gassendi East beginning with Revolution 27 and again carry out the five-revolution photography sequence. Alphonsus, where surface color changes and luminescence have been reported, was ranked ninth on the Apollo 13 target list, while the two sites in dark-floored Gassendi crater were ranked thirteenth and fourteenth, respectively.

Duncan estimated that, by the time the astronauts finished photographing the Alphonsus and Gassendi crater candidate landing sites, Apollo 13's cameras would likely have run out of film. He recommended that the crew fire the SPS to leave lunar orbit and return to Earth during Revolution 32 or two revolutions after the film ran out, whichever came first.

Apollo 13 left Earth on 11 April 1970. The LM Aquarius checked out as "GO" for a landing on the moon, and on 12 April the crew performed the SPS burn to leave the free-return trajectory. The next day, CSM Odyssey suffered an oxygen tank explosion in its Service Module (SM).

Because the extent of the internal damage to the CSM was unknown, NASA wrote off Odyssey's SPS and looked to the LM for salvation. Astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise used Aquarius's descent engine to get back onto a free-return trajectory.

During their lunar flyby, the crew photographed the moon through Aquarius's windows using hand-held cameras. Odyssey blocked part of their field of view, but there was no thought of discarding it: the crew needed the conical Command Module (CM), with its bowl-shaped heat shield, to reenter Earth's atmosphere at the end of their voyage.

Inside the lifeboat: after the explosion in the Apollo 13 CSM Odyssey, the Apollo 13 crew shut down Odyssey's systems and relocated to the still-functional LM Aquarius. The LM was designed to support two men for 36 hours, not three for four days. This meant that exhaled carbon dioxide built up in the cabin air. With assistance from engineers on Earth, the crew built a system (image above) that allowed the CSM's carbon dioxide-absorbing lithium hydroxide canisters to be used in the LM. CSM Pilot Jack Swigert, who would have performed "bootstrap photography" in lunar orbit had the third lunar landing attempt gone ahead as planned, is visible at right. Image credit: NASA
As Apollo 13 swung around the moon and began its fall back to Earth, its crew used handheld cameras to photograph the moon through windows in the LM Aquarius. This image, captured through one of the ceiling-mounted rendezvous and docking windows, shows parts of the Nearside and Farside hemispheres. Dominating the top half of the image is the crippled CSM Odyssey. To conserve electricity, its internal lights are off, making its windows dark. The out-of-focus lines on the rendezvous window were meant to enable the LM crew to gauge distance during rendezvous and docking with the CSM. Image credit: NASA
The Hycon camera was not used for photography, though it did provide a hose for the improvised adapter the crew made so that Odyssey's carbon dioxide-absorbing canisters could be used inside Aquarius. With help from the hose and the world-wide Apollo mission team, the crew safely reentered Earth's atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in the Odyssey CM on 17 April.

Apollo 14 (31 January-9 February 1971) became the first (and last) lunar mission to use the Hycon LTC. By the time it flew, NASA had cancelled Apollo 15 and 19 as part of its efforts to preserve its proposed Space Station/Space Shuttle Program. It had renumbered the remaining Apollo flights so that they ended with Apollo 17. Apollo 14, H-3, became the last H-class mission. The camera's chief target was Descartes, which had moved to the top spot among Apollo 16 landing site candidates. Apollo 16, planned as a J-class mission, would include a two-seat Lunar Roving Vehicle, an LM capable of remaining on the moon for three days, and a CSM with an ejectable subsatellite and a pallet of sophisticated sensors and cameras in its SM.

The Hycon camera captured 192 images, but malfunctioned while imaging the lunar surface about 70 kilometers east of Descartes. Though Apollo 14 returned no images of the site, Apollo 16 (J-2) landed at Descartes in April 1972.

Sources

Memorandum with attachment, FM5/Lunar Mission Analysis Branch to various, “Lunar alternate missions for Apollo 13 (Mission H-2),” Rocky Duncan, 13 February 1970

"Scientific Rationale Summaries for Apollo Candidate Lunar Exploration Landing Sites – case 340," J. Head, Bellcomm, Inc., 11 March 1970

"Significant Results from Apollo 14 Lunar Orbital Photography," F. El-Baz and S. Roosa, Proceedings of the 1972 Lunar Science Conference, Vol. 2, pp. 63-83, 1972

More Information

North American Aviation's 1965 Plan to Rescue Apollo Astronauts Stranded in Lunar Orbit

What If Apollo Astronauts Became Marooned in Lunar Orbit? (1968)

Apollo's End: NASA Cancels Apollo 15 & Apollo 19 to Save Station/Shuttle (1970)

29 October 2017

Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule (1965)

Chrysler-built Saturn IB first stages in the final phase of assembly at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, November 1967. The clustered Redstone rocket bodies are most obvious on the stage at far right. Image credit: NASA
In the 1960s, the Chrysler Corporation, an automobile company founded in 1925, manufactured the first stage of the Saturn IB, the first and last member of the Saturn rocket family to launch astronauts into space. After four successful unmanned test flights beginning in February 1966, Saturn IBs launched the Apollo 7 Command and Service Module (CSM), the first Apollo spacecraft to carry a crew (11-22 October 1968); the three CSMs that ferried crews to and from Skylab, the first U.S. space station (May 1973-February 1974; and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) CSM and the Docking Module its crew used to link up with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in Earth orbit (15-24 July 1975). The ASTP CSM was the last Apollo spacecraft to fly.

That Chrysler built the Saturn IB first stage should not be surprising. The company's Missile Division built intermediate-range Redstone missiles for the U.S. Army starting in 1950; the first flew in 1953. An upgraded Redstone, the Jupiter, served both as a missile and a space launcher. A modified Jupiter launched Explorer 1, the first U.S. Earth satellite, on 31 January 1958. Safety-enhanced Redstones launched suborbital Mercury spacecraft containing Alan Shepard, the first American in space (5 May 1961), and Virgil Grissom (21 July 1961).

The first Saturn I rocket lifts off, 27 October 1961. For this suborbital test of the Chrysler-built S-I first stage, the rocket carried a dummy S-IV second stage. Image credit: NASA
Redstone and its derivatives prepared Chrysler for its contributions to the 162-foot-tall Saturn I, which can reasonably be described as NASA's rocket for learning how to fly big rockets. Saturn I flew 10 times between October 1961 and July 1965. Chrysler's Saturn I first stage included eight Redstone rocket bodies clustered around a central Jupiter rocket body. The Jupiter and four Redstones were filled with liquid oxygen; the remaining four Redstones held RP-1 aviation fuel. Chrysler's Saturn IB first stage followed an identical pattern.

The last three Saturn I rockets each launched a Pegasus meteoroid-detection satellite, the first active payloads launched on a Saturn rocket. Pegasus 1 reached orbit in February 1965, Pegasus 2 in May 1965, and Pegasus 3 in July 1965. The Pegasus series was crucial for understanding the threat micrometeoroids posed to spacecraft and astronauts.

Shortly after Pegasus 1 reached space, at the Second Space Congress in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Chrysler engineers R. Dutzmann and E. Dunford described a small free-flying capsule for performing work outside spacecraft and space stations. They presented their paper in April 1965 during the six-week period that separated humankind's first spacewalk by Alexei Leonov (Voskhod 2, 18 March 1965) from the first U.S. spacewalk by Ed White (Gemini IV, 3 May 1965).

Dutzmann and Dunford's capsule design arose from a perceived need for new methods of protecting spacewalking astronauts - methods that would enhance protection but not compromise the ability to perform work. The Chrysler engineers explained, for example, that planned nylon fabric space suits might shield an astronaut from meteoroids if a coverall made of woven aluminum wire were added; the coverall would, however, make astronaut movement difficult.

Meteoroids were only one possible hazard of walking in space. Dutzmann and Dunford noted that objects in space have no weight, but retain their mass. They feared that a massive object - for example, a rocket stage - inadvertently set in motion might catch an astronaut unawares and crush him against another massive object.

The Chrysler engineers wrote that NASA planned to use a pure oxygen atmosphere at a pressure of 3.5 pounds per square inch (psi) inside its spacecraft and space suits. Experiments had shown that, should a space suit develop a leak, the astronaut would experience oxygen starvation if the pressure fell by just 0.8 psi. Increasing the flow of oxygen into the suit might keep pressure above the 2.7-psi critical level long enough for him to reach safety, but only if the suit perforation were small.

In addition, they noted that a space-suited astronaut would have no place to keep his tools. Attaching tools to the astronaut would impede movement.

The Chrysler engineers offered a brief assessment of past proposals for heavy (up to 2.5-ton) "taxis" that would include "comfortized" pressurized cockpits and mechanical manipulator arms. Such "luxuries," they wrote, could not realistically play a role in space operations before the 1970s. The technological leap required to move from a basic fabric space suit to a complex work vehicle was too great; also, tests had shown that existing mechanical manipulators were up to four times less efficient for doing work than astronaut arms and hands.

Side view of the interior of Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule with astronaut positions indicated. A = outline of astronaut position with capsule doors closed; B = outline of astronaut position at work site with capsule doors open. Work site attachment arms are shown in black outline in closed-door (retracted) position and in red outline in open-door (extended) position. Image credit: Chrysler Corporation/DSFPortree

Top view of the interior of Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule. A1 = left sliding door/window; A2 = right sliding door/window; B = hand controller for guiding capsule; C1 = left oxygen hose; C2 = right oxygen hose; D1 = left sticky pads at ends of arms for holding capsule at work site (arms shown retracted in closed-door position); D2 = right sticky pads at ends of arms for holding capsule at work site (arms retracted in closed-door position); E = tool storage; F = hydrogen peroxide propellant tank; G = pressure seal curtain deployment channel; H = Whipple Bumper hull. Image credit: Chrysler Corporation/DSFPortree
Dutzmann and Dunford thus proposed an intermediate developmental step in spacewalk technology: a three-foot-diameter, eight-foot-tall "Transportation and Work Station Capsule," normally kept unpressurized, that would provide the space-suited astronaut with an extra layer of protection from injury, a shelter in case of suit damage, improved mobility, worksite lighting, and places inside to store up to 30 pounds of tools. With a 230-pound space-suited astronaut inside and a full load of 30 pounds of hydrogen peroxide propellant, the cylindrical capsule would weigh just 550 pounds.

The capsule hull would comprise two layers of aluminum, each a fraction of an inch thick, separated by an empty space a little less than an inch wide. Meteoroids would strike the outer layer, break apart and partly vaporize, then strike the inner layer. Testing showed that this design, based on the Whipple Bumper concept, could provide meteoroid protection equivalent to that offered by a solid aluminum hull four times as thick. The Whipple Bumper was named for its inventor, comet astronomer Fred Whipple.

Dutzmann and Dunford suggested that the empty space between the aluminum layers be filled with aluminum honeycomb to improve structural strength. The lightweight Whipple Bumper hull meant that the Chrysler capsule's structure would weigh just 88 pounds.

The capsule's dome-shaped ends would each contain a thruster group. A total of 12 catalyst-bed thrusters, not too different from the Mercury spacecraft attitude-control thrusters, would draw hydrogen peroxide from a tank located at the capsule center of gravity. Upon contact with the catalyst, the hydrogen peroxide would turn to high-temperature steam and vent from the thruster nozzle. Each thruster could produce up to 10 pounds of thrust.

The astronaut, who would stand within the capsule, would open a pair of sliding doors with windows and lean out through the open doorway to perform tasks using tools gripped in gloved hands. Two pairs of telescoping arms with sticky pads at the ends, arranged one above the other, would extend through the 27-inch-by-78-inch door opening on either side of the astronaut's legs to hold the capsule in place at the work site.

A unique feature of Chrysler's capsule was its "pressure seal curtain" system. In the event of a suit puncture or tear, a transparent plastic sheet sleeve would rise up a deployment "channel" from a donut-shaped storage area in the capsule floor to surround and enclose the astronaut.

Dutzmann and Dunford offered a timeline for pressure seal curtain activation. They assumed that the astronaut's fabric space suit would most likely become damaged while the capsule was attached to a work site since at all other times the astronaut would remain inside the capsule with the doors closed.

They expected that a "pressurization emergency" would be detected 10 seconds after suit damage occurred. Five seconds post-detection, the capsule would automatically detach from the four arms holding it at its work site. This would clear the way for its sliding doors to shut 10 seconds after detection. Fifteen seconds after detection, the seal curtain would rise up and attach itself to the capsule "ceiling." Simultaneously, a backup oxygen supply mounted behind the astronaut's shoulders would activate, increasing flow into the astronaut's damaged suit. Air leaking from the suit would begin to fill the seal curtain volume 30 seconds after leak detection.

Much like the fabric space suit, the seal curtain would vent oxygen overboard to prevent buildup of exhaled carbon dioxide. Dutzmann and Dunford assumed that, to avoid oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide buildup within his helmet, the astronaut would open his visor soon after pressure within the seal curtain exceeded 2.7 psi.

The astronaut would then pilot the capsule back to its docking structure on the home spacecraft. If the capsule remained within 1000 feet of the docking structure, as Dutzmann and Dunford recommended, the trip would last less than 10 minutes.

The three Saturn I-launched Pegasus satellites would reveal that the threat from meteoroids in space was less severe than expected, but other dangers lay in wait for 1960s spacewalkers. The Soviet Union would for years claim that Alexei Leonov's spacewalk was a complete success, when in fact he could not control his movements, overheated, and became stuck sideways in Voskhod 2's inflatable airlock.

Ed White's excursion outside the Gemini IV spacecraft, less than a month after the Chrysler engineers presented their capsule design, was nearly as successful as Leonov's was claimed to have been. More careful analysis would, however, have pointed to potential problems - White's suit expanded during his spacewalk, and he exceeded the cooling capacity of his air-cooled space suit while struggling to squeeze into his narrow seat and close his balky spacecraft hatch.

Not until humankind's perilous third spacewalk on 5 June 1966 would the inadequacies of air-cooled space suits become obvious. During an ambitious attempt to fly free of the Gemini IX spacecraft using a 168-pound hydrogen peroxide-fueled Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) backpack, pilot Eugene Cernan tore his suit's outer layers, overheated, and became blinded by perspiration as he struggled against his suit's internal pressure. Cernan's AMU flight was called off and NASA was forced to descope its planned series of complex Gemini Program spacewalks (see "More Information" below).

Sources

"Design Considerations for a Free Space Transportation and Work Station Capsule," R. Dutzmann and E. Dunford, Proceedings of the 2nd Space Congress, April 1965, pp. 403-430

Chrysler's Ballistic Missile and Space Activities: First 20 Years, Chrysler Corporation, 1972

Walking to Olympus: An EVA Chronology, Monographs in Aerospace History #7, David S. F. Portree and Robert C. Trevino, NASA History Office, October 1997, pp. 1-5, 11 - https://history.nasa.gov/monograph7.pdf (accessed 12 November 2017)

More Information

The Spacewalks That Never Were: Gemini Extravehicular Planning Group (1965) (how Soviet deception concerning Leonov's spacewalk led NASA to plan complex Gemini spacewalks)

Rocket Belts and Rocket Chairs: Lunar Flying Units (1960s plans for rocket-powered lunar surface transportation)

15 October 2017

Mission to the Mantle: Michael Duke's Moonrise

This NASA image of the gibbous moon by photographer Lauren Harnett includes an intruder - the International Space Station (ISS) (lower right). The moon, last visited by humans in December 1972, is about 384,400 kilometers away; ISS, permanently occupied since November 2000, is about 1000 times nearer Earth.
A casual glance at the moon's disk reveals signs of ancient violence. Nearside, the lunar hemisphere we can see from Earth, is marked by gray areas set against white. Some are noticeably circular. The Apollo expeditions revealed that these relatively smooth basalt plains are scars left by large impactors - comets or asteroids - that pummeled the moon between 3.85 and 3.95 billion years ago during the period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment. These gray areas cover about 20% of the lunar surface. They are concentrated on the Nearside, the lunar hemisphere that faces the Earth.

An Earth-based observer cannot view the largest and oldest giant impact basin because it is out of view on the moon's hidden Farside. South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin is about 2500 kilometers wide, making it perhaps the largest impact scar in the Solar System. Lunar Orbiter data revealed its existence in the 1960s, though little was known of it until the 1990s, when the U.S. Clementine and Lunar Prospector polar orbiters mapped surface chemistry over the entire moon. Their data showed that the basin floor probably includes material excavated from the moon's lower crust and upper mantle. In the first decade of the 21st century, laser altimeters on the U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Japanese Kaguya spacecraft confirmed that SPA includes the lowest places on the moon.

Lunar hemispheres centered on the moon's highest point (left) and lowest point (right). Both occur in the moon's Farside hemisphere and are believed to be associated with the excavation of the South Pole-Aitken Basin perhaps 4 billion years ago. On this U.S. Geologic Survey topographic map, blue indicates low areas and gray and black indicate high areas. 
South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin with major features labeled. The 140-kilometer-wide crater Antoniadi includes a 12-kilometer-wide unnamed crater, the floor of which is more than nine kilometers below the mean lunar radius (the lunar equivalent of Earth's sea level). It is the lowest point on the moon. Image credit: NASA/ASU/DSFPortree
Michael Duke, a retired NASA Johnson Space Center geologist with the Colorado School of Mines, participated in both Apollo and 1990s lunar explorations. In 1999, Duke was Principal Investigator leading a team that proposed a robotic SPA sample-return mission in NASA's low-cost Discovery Program. To fit under Discovery's mission cost cap of $150 million (in Fiscal Year 1992 dollars), Duke's team proposed "the simplest-possible mission" - a single lander with no sample-collecting rover, a lunar-surface stay-time of just 24 hours, and a low-capability lunar-orbiting radio-relay satellite (needed because Farside is not in line-of-sight radio contact with Earth). Believing that these limitations added up to a high risk of mission failure, NASA rejected the 1999 Discovery proposal.

In 2002, however, the National Research Council's planetary science Decadal Survey declared SPA sample return to be a high scientific priority and, at the same time, proposed a new class of competitively selected medium-cost missions. The latter marked the genesis of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which originally had a cost cap per mission of $700 million.

The New Horizons Pluto/Kuiper Belt Object flyby mission was already under development when NASA created the New Frontiers Program. NASA gave New Frontiers a highly visible first mission by adopting New Horizons into the program. Selection of the Pluto/KBO mission came to be regarded as the first New Frontiers proposal cycle, though it included no competition. NASA had taken a similar approach when it made Mars Pathfinder its first Discovery Program mission in 1992.

Geologist Michael Duke in 2004. Image credit: NASA
Duke's team immediately began to upgrade its SPA proposal for the second New Frontiers proposal cycle. In October 2002, Duke described the new SPA mission design at the 53rd International Astronautical Federation Congress (the Second World Space Congress) in Houston, Texas. To avoid tipping off competing New Frontiers proposers, his paper provided only limited technical details.

Duke argued that the SPA sample-return mission could collect ancient deep crust and mantle rocks without a costly rover. Clementine and Lunar Prospector had shown that at least half of the surface material in the central part of SPA was native to the basin, so stood a good chance of having originated deep within the moon.

Furthermore, Apollo demonstrated that any lunar site is likely to yield a wide assortment of samples because the moon's low gravity and surface vacuum enable asteroid impacts to widely scatter rock fragments. The Apollo 11 mission to Mare Tranquillitatis, for example, found and returned to Earth rocks blasted from the moon's light-hued Highlands. Duke proposed that the SPA sample-return lander sift about 100 kilograms of lunar dirt to gather a one-kilogram sample consisting of thousands of small rock fragments. These would have many origins, but a large percentage would be likely to have originated in the moon's deep crust and mantle.

A SPA sample-return lander sifts moondust in quest of small fragments of lunar lower crust and upper mantle material. The gray dome mounted sideways on the right side of the lander, above the sample arm attachment point, is the sample-return capsule for carrying a one-kilogram sample through Earth's atmosphere. Image credit: NASA
NASA rejected the Discovery SPA mission in part out of concern for lander safety. Duke noted that, with the New Frontiers Program's $700-million cost cap, the SPA sample-return mission could include two landers. This would provide a backup in case one crashed. He pointed out, however, that automated Surveyor spacecraft of the 1960s had found the moon to be a relatively easy place on which to land even without the benefits of 21st-century hazard-avoidance technology. Two landers would also increase the already good chance that the mission could collect samples representative of the basin's earliest history.

A $700-million budget would also enable a relay satellite "more competent" than its bare-bones Discovery predecessor. It might be placed in a halo orbit around the Earth-moon L2 point, 64,500 kilometers behind the moon as viewed from Earth. From that position, the satellite would permit continuous radio contact between Earth and the landers. A satellite in lunar orbit could remain in line-of-sight contact with both the landers and Earth for only brief periods.

NASA had argued that a single day on the moon provided too little time to modify the SPA Discovery mission if it suffered difficulties. The SPA New Frontiers mission would, therefore, remain on the moon for longer. Duke noted, however, that stay-time would probably be limited to the length of the lunar daylight period (14 Earth days) because designing the twin landers to withstand the frigid lunar night would boost their cost.

In February 2004, Duke's mission - christened Moonrise - became one of two SPA sample-return missions proposed in the second New Frontiers proposal cycle. In July 2004, NASA awarded Moonrise and a Jupiter polar orbiter called Juno $1.2 million each for additional study. In May 2005, the space agency selected Juno for full development.

Juno's selection did not end proposals for SPA Basin sample-return, though it did mark the end of Duke's involvement. In the third New Frontiers proposal cycle, which began in 2009, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Lockheed Martin/Washington University in St. Louis team proposed a SPA Basin mission called MoonRise. In 2011, the SPA sample-return mission was again selected as a New Frontiers finalist, but it lost out in the final selection to the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid sample-return mission.

Sources

"Sample Return from the Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin," M. Duke, Advances in Space Research, Volume 31, Number 11, June 2003, pp. 2347-2352

"NASA Selects Two 'New Frontiers' Mission Concepts for Further Study," D. Savage, NASA Press Release 04-222, NASA Headquarters, 16 July 2004

NASA Facts: MoonRise - A Sample-Return Mission From the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin, NASA Facts, JPL 400-1408, June 2010

"MoonRise: Sample Return from the South Pole-Aitken Basin," L. Akalai, B. Jolliff, and D. Papanastassiou; presentation to the International Planetary Probe Workshop, Barcelona, Spain, 17 June 2010

More Information

Peeling Away the Layers of Mars (1966)

An Apollo Landing Near the Great Ray Crater Tycho (1969)

Catching Some Comet Dust: Giotto II (1985)

Lunar GAS (1987)

The Eighth Continent

27 September 2017

A New Step in Spaceflight Evolution: To Mars by Flyby-Landing Excursion Mode (1966)

The 12 images and captions that accompany this post are a post-within-a-post. R. R. Titus, author of the study discussed in the main post text, did not describe his Flyby-Landing Excursion Mode (FLEM) spacecraft, so these images constitute a plausible guess. They draw inspiration from the 1966 NASA Planetary JAG piloted Mars/Venus flyby design; the SIM Bays used to explore the moon from lunar orbit during Apollos 15, 16, and 17; Orbital Workshop concepts; the informed imagination of their creator, artist William Black; and sundry inputs from the post author. In the image above, a stack assembled in Earth orbit from three modified Saturn S-IVB rocket stages and the FLEM spacecraft undergoes final checks before beginning Earth-departure maneuvers. 
This dramatic image is 21st-century artist William Black's tribute to a very similar hand-painted NASA image of the 1960s. Earth-orbit departure would require three S-IVB stage burns at perigee over about two days. Because of this, the first and second S-IVBs (center left and lower left) would not be in view when the third S-IVB ignited its J-2 engine. After engine shutdown, the third S-IVB will detach and vent leftover propellants to nudge its course so that it will not follow the FLEM spacecraft to Mars.
During its first dozen years, NASA piloted spaceflight followed an evolutionary course, with simple missions and spacecraft leading to more complex and capable ones. Single-man Mercury suborbital missions led to Mercury orbital missions of increasing duration; then, in 1965-1966, two-man Gemini missions progressively added maneuverability, the ability to rendezvous and dock, spacewalk capability, and flight durations of up to 14 days.

Next came Apollo. NASA conducted four piloted preparatory missions in 1968-1969 ahead of the first lunar landing attempt. Apollo 7 (October 1968), launched on a two-stage Saturn IB rocket, tested the Command and Service Module (CSM) in Earth orbit. The CSM comprised a drum-shaped Service Module (SM) and the conical Command Module (CM) bearing its three-man crew.

As in biological evolution, contingency played a role in spaceflight evolution: for example, Apollo 8, intended originally as a Saturn V rocket-launched high-Earth-orbit test of the CSM and the bug-like Lunar Module (LM) moon lander, became a CSM-only lunar-orbital mission after the LM was delayed and the Soviet Union appeared close to launching a cosmonaut around the moon.

The Apollo 8 astronauts reached lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. In addition to forestalling Soviet attempts to upstage the first Apollo lunar landing mission, Apollo 8's 10 lunar orbits tested upgrades made to the Manned Space Flight Network, NASA's world-wide radio communications and tracking system, and gave console operators in Mission Control early experience in supporting a piloted lunar mission. The Apollo 8 CSM left lunar orbit on Christmas Day 1968, and splashed down  in the Pacific Ocean on 27 December 1968.

Apollo 9 (March 1969) saw the first Earth-orbital test of the LM and CSM together. Apollo 10 (May 1969) was a dress-rehearsal in low-lunar orbit for Apollo 11 (July 1969), the first piloted lunar landing.

Apollo 11 is perhaps best understood as an engineering mission; it was a cautious end-to-end test of the Apollo system with a single two-and-a-half-hour moonwalk and only limited science objectives. Apollo 12 (November 1969) demonstrated the pin-point landing capability required for pre-mission geologic traverse planning by setting down near a known point on the moon: specifically, the Surveyor III automated soft-lander, which had landed in April 1967. It also saw a pair of moonwalks lasting nearly four hours each and deployment of the first Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment Package (ALSEP).

Apollo 13 (April 1970), the first science-focused mission, suffered a crippling explosion midway to the moon, scrubbing its lunar landing, but its crew's safe return to Earth demonstrated the Apollo system's maturity and the Apollo team's experience. Apollo 14 (January-February 1971) included two moonwalks, each lasting more than four-and-a-half hours. They included a strenuous 1.3-kilometer trek through the hummocky ejecta blanket surrounding 300-meter-wide Cone Crater, a natural drill hole in the scientifically important Fra Mauro Formation.

Apollo 15 (July-August 1971), Apollo 16 (April 1972), and Apollo 17 (December 1972), designated "J" missions, featured a host of evolutionary improvements. Beefed-up LMs permitted surface stay times of up to three days at complex and challenging landing sites, heavier returned lunar samples, and more complex ALSEPs. Space suit improvements and Boeing's Lunar Roving Vehicle enabled geologic traverses ranging over kilometers of the lunar surface. Each "J" mission CSM included a suite of sensors which its pilot could turn toward the moon. Apollo 15 visited the Hadley Rille/Apennine Mountains area; Apollo 16 the central Nearside Lunar Highlands; and Apollo 17, Taurus-Littrow, on the edge of Mare Serenitatis.

Conceptual FLEM spacecraft based on a 1966 NASA concept. A black-and-white band midway along its hull marks where it will split in two as it nears Mars. To the left of the band is the Mars Orbiter (R. R. Titus called it the "excursion module"); to the right, the Flyby Spacecraft (the "parent" spacecraft). The Orbiter mission module has a single deck with living and working space for two astronauts; the Flyby Spacecraft, two decks with room for four crew. 
As early as 1962, engineers foresaw two evolutionary paths for Saturn rockets and Apollo spacecraft hardware after they accomplished President John F. Kennedy's goal of a man on the moon by 1970. The engineers were guided by President Lyndon Baines Johnson's 1964 decision that, to contain cost, NASA's piloted space program after the moon landing should be based on hardware developed for Apollo. This marked the advent of the Apollo Applications Program (AAP).

One path would see moon missions continue more or less indefinitely, growing ever more capable and culminating in a permanent lunar base in the 1980s. Alternately, NASA might repurpose Apollo hardware to build, launch, and maintain an evolutionary series of space stations in Earth orbit.

The space station path appeared pedestrian compared to the lunar base path, yet it offered great potential for long-term future exploration. This was because it promised to prepare astronauts and spacecraft for long-duration missions in interplanetary space. In 1965-1966, NASA advance planners envisioned a series of Earth-orbiting space workshops based on the Apollo LM and the Saturn IB rocket S-IVB stage. Apollo CSMs would ferry up to six astronauts at a time to the workshops for progressively longer stays.

Some planners thought that NASA should jump straight from the early space workshops to piloted Mars landing missions using nuclear-thermal propulsion, but others called for a conservative continuation of the evolutionary approach. If the latter had won the day, the mid-1970s might have seen a new-design space station climb to Earth orbit atop an improved Saturn V rocket. Derived from Apollo hardware and new technology tested on board the orbiting workshops, the station would in fact have constituted a prototype interplanetary Mission Module. A crew might have lived on board without resupply or visitors for almost two years to help prepare NASA for its first piloted Mars voyage.

In keeping with the evolutionary approach, the first piloted voyage beyond the moon might have been a Mars flyby with no piloted Mars landing. The piloted Mars flyby spacecraft, which would have carried a cargo of robotic Mars probes, would have been built around the Mission Module tested in Earth orbit. The mission might have commenced as early as late 1975, when an opportunity to launch a minimum-energy Mars flyby was due to occur.

As they raced past Mars in early 1976, the four flyby astronauts would have released automated probes and turned a suite of sensors mounted on their spacecraft toward Mars and its irregularly shaped moons Phobos and Deimos. They would have reached their greatest distance from the Sun in the Asteroid Belt, so asteroid encounters would have been a possibility. As their Sun-centered elliptical orbit brought them back to Earth's vicinity in 1977, they would have separated in an Apollo CM-derived Earth-return capsule and reentered Earth's atmosphere.

In addition to observing Mars close up, the astronauts would have continued the effort, begun in earnest during Gemini flights and continued on board the Earth-orbiting workshops and prototype interplanetary Mission Module, to determine whether extended piloted missions were medically feasible. The flyby crew might have confirmed, for example, that artificial gravity is a must during years-long interplanetary voyages. Their results would have shaped the next interplanetary mission, which might have taken the form of a piloted Mars orbiter in the spirit of Apollo 8 and Apollo 10, or, if the space agency felt sufficiently confident in its abilities, a Mars orbital mission with a short piloted excursion to the martian surface in the spirit of Apollo 11.

Sixty days from Mars: two of the FLEM mission's astronauts transfer to the Orbiter. After exhaustive systems checks, they fire explosive bolts to cast off the two-part "spacer" linking their spacecraft and the drum-shaped Flyby Spacecraft. A docking mechanism retracts, then small thrusters push the two spacecraft apart. 
The Orbiter backs away from the Flyby Spacecraft. The two astronauts on the Flyby Spacecraft inspect the Orbiter's exterior and televise its departure to Mission Control on Earth. 
Using its Apollo-type thruster quads, the Orbiter turns away from the Flyby Spacecraft, positioning itself for the separation burn that will cause it to reach Mars 16 days ahead of the Flyby Spacecraft. Visible on both are engines based on the Apollo Lunar Module descent engine design. The four engines on the Flyby Spacecraft are part of the Earth Return Module (ERM) braking stage. The ERM, an Apollo CM with seating for four astronauts, is linked by its nose-mounted docking unit to the aft deck of the Flyby Spacecraft Mission Module. Life support gas and liquid tanks supplying the Mission Module surround the CM; these act as radiation shielding, allowing the CM to serve double-duty as a solar storm shelter.
In January 1966, United Aircraft Research Laboratories engineer R. R. Titus unveiled a proposal for a new intermediate step in spaceflight evolution. He dubbed it FLEM, which stood for "Flyby-Landing Excursion Mode." FLEM missions would, Titus wrote, have a natural place in the evolutionary sequence between piloted Mars flybys and piloted Mars orbiters. A FLEM mission might even have become the basis for an early, very brief, piloted Mars landing.

Titus explained that, in the "standard stopover mode," a label that encompassed Mars orbital and landing missions, all major maneuvers would involve the entire Mars spacecraft. This meant that the Mars spacecraft would need a large mass of propellants, which in turn meant that many expensive heavy-lift rockets would be required to launch the spacecraft, its propellants, and its Earth-orbit departure stages into Earth orbit for assembly.

Propellant mass required would vary greatly from one Earth-Mars transfer opportunity to the next over a roughly 15-year cycle because Mars has a decidedly elliptical orbit. Because of this, the Mars spacecraft and the sequence of launches needed to boost its components and propellants into Earth orbit would have to be redesigned for each standard stopover mode Mars mission.

The United Aircraft engineer added that errors or malfunctions during standard stopover mode "high-risk" Mars capture and escape maneuvers could result in "complete mission failure" because the entire spacecraft would be involved. Because the Mars spacecraft would be very massive already, it would be difficult and costly to include extra propellants that would enable a mission abort that could save the crew.

Titus noted that required propellant mass might be reduced and made to vary less over multiple Earth-Mars transfer opportunities if the spacecraft skimmed through Mars's upper atmosphere to slow down and capture into Mars orbit (that is, if it performed aerocapture). If, however, artificial gravity were found to be necessary for crew health, then stowing a spinning artificial-gravity system of sufficient radius behind an aerocapture heat shield would probably prove infeasible. The mission would then have to rely entirely on propulsive braking.

Titus explained that his FLEM concept, in addition to forming a natural evolutionary extension of piloted Mars flybys, would address many inherent problems of the standard stopover mode. One part of the FLEM spacecraft, the "parent" spacecraft, would not capture into Mars orbit. It could include a spinning artificial-gravity system. The other part, the "excursion module," would capture into Mars orbit using chemical rockets or, perhaps, by skimming through the martian atmosphere behind an aerocapture heat shield.

Orbiter alone: immediately following the separation burn, the two astronauts aboard the Orbiter deploy and orient its solar array and high-gain dish antenna; they are identical to those on the Flyby Spacecraft. The array points at the Sun, out of view beyond the upper left corner of the image, while the antenna aims at the bright blue-white dot that is Earth. Just above the Orbiter, half-lit Mars is visible. Also in view are the Orbiter's four science pallets (covered by white rectangular panels), gray airlock hatch, and yellow spacewalk handholds. The airlock, partly surrounded by propellant tanks, serves as the Orbiter's solar storm shelter. 
He noted that Earth-Mars transfer opportunities that need less propellant for Earth departure tend to arrive at Mars moving quickly, while opportunities that require more propellant for Earth departure arrive at Mars moving slowly. In the former instance, the excursion module would need a large quantity of propellants to slow down enough for Mars's gravity to capture it into orbit, so would be the most massive of the two FLEM modules. Because of this, the lower-mass parent spacecraft would ignite its rocket motors to slow down so that the excursion module could reach Mars first.

In the latter case, the excursion module would not need a large mass of propellants to capture into Mars orbit, making it the least massive of the two FLEM spacecraft. It would thus fire rockets to speed up and reach Mars ahead of the parent spacecraft.

Titus calculated that separation 60 days ahead of the Mars flyby would enable the excursion module to reach the planet 16 days ahead of the parent spacecraft; separation 30 days before flyby would enable it to reach Mars while the parent spacecraft was nine days behind it. While it awaited the arrival of its parent, the excursion module might remain in Mars orbit or all or part of it might land on Mars for a stay of several days.

In Mars orbit: during the Mars orbit capture burn, the Orbiter crew stowed the solar array and high-gain antenna to protect them from deceleration damage. Soon after achieving Mars orbit, they redeployed both, then ejected the panels covering the Orbiter's instrument pallets. The two forward pallets include identical suites of high-resolution film cameras; the aft pair, identical suites of spectrometers. Identical pallets provide redundancy if instruments fail. As the Orbiter circles Mars, passing in and out of daylight, its solar array can lose lock on the Sun; in the image above, this has occurred, so the array reflects a crater under scrutiny by the Orbiter's instruments.
The Orbiter crew is not inactive as the Mars-facing instrument pallets record images and other data. In addition to maintaining Orbiter systems, they use handheld and porthole-mounted cameras to capture images of "variable phenomena." These include clouds, dust storms, morning fogs and frosts, and the retreating or expanding edges of the seasonally variable polar ice caps. The Orbiter's single-deck Mission Module has eight portholes. 
FLEM, Titus noted, offered a "partial success capability" which, he opined, "may be very attractive." If the excursion module were lost, then the astronauts remaining on board the parent spacecraft could still return safely to Earth. If the excursion module were found during pre-separation checkout to be incapable of accomplishing its mission, it would not undock from the parent spacecraft, and the FLEM mission could still achieve some of its goals while settling for a Mars flyby.

Assuming that the mission took place as planned, the excursion module would ignite its rocket motors as the parent spacecraft passed Mars to depart Mars orbit and catch up with it. Following rendezvous, docking, and crew transfer, the excursion module would be cast off.

Sixteen days after Orbiter capture into Mars orbit, the Flyby Spacecraft raced past Mars. The Orbiter crew ejected their spacecraft's solar array and ignited its engines to catch up with their ride home. In this image, the two astronauts on board the Flyby Spacecraft (left) have turned on rendezvous lights. The Orbiter engines glow red after the "chase" maneuver. Its antenna is positioned so it can serve as a handrail should an emergency spacewalk to the Flyby Spacecraft be needed. The Orbiter halts near the Flyby Spacecraft, then its crew steps outside to collect film cassettes from the four pallets. The Flyby Spacecraft crew records the spacewalk and inspects the Orbiter exterior for damage that might interfere with docking. The Orbiter astronauts stow the recovered cassettes inside their spacecraft, then dock with the Flyby Spacecraft. The reunited FLEM astronauts transfer film cassettes to the Flyby Spacecraft and discard the Orbiter.
To squeeze even more benefit from FLEM, Titus proposed a variant of the standard ballistic flyby (that is, one in which the only major propulsive maneuver would occur at the start of the mission, when the spacecraft departed Earth orbit). His "powered flyby" would include an optional propulsive maneuver near Mars that would dramatically reduce FLEM spacecraft mass during unfavorable Earth-Mars transfer opportunities, limit the wide swings in propellant mass required from one Earth-Mars transfer opportunity to the next, and slash total trip time.

The maneuver would be optional in the sense that, if it could not occur, the FLEM spacecraft's Sun-centered orbit would return it to Earth, though after a longer than expected trip. During return to Earth after a powered flyby, the FLEM spacecraft would pass as close to the Sun as orbits the planet Mercury.

Titus determined that a powered-flyby maneuver in 1971 would have almost no effect on spacecraft mass at Earth-orbit departure - both the standard ballistic and powered-flyby FLEM spacecraft would have a mass of about 400,000 pounds - but would slash trip time from 510 to 430 days. The most dramatic improvement would occur in 1978, when the ballistic-flyby FLEM spacecraft's mass would total nearly two million pounds and its mission would last 540 days. The powered-flyby FLEM spacecraft would have a mass of just 800,000 pounds at the start of Earth-orbit departure and its mission would last only 455 days.

Titus's FLEM concept influenced NASA piloted flyby studies that took place under the auspices of the Planetary Joint Action Group (JAG). The NASA Headquarters-led Planetary JAG, which met between 1965 and 1968, included representatives from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, as well as Washington, DC-based planning contractor Bellcomm. The Planetary JAG's work, including the Mars Surface Sample Return concept that FLEM apparently inspired, will be described in detail in subsequent posts.

FLEM was a mission mode without a spacecraft for accomplishing it - but no longer. For this post, artist William Black worked with the author to create a plausible FLEM spacecraft based on flown and conceptua1960s space hardware. In keeping with the post's overriding theme, we put FLEM into an evolutionary program. We assumed at first that NASA would launch a piloted Mars flyby in 1975 and follow it in 1978 with a FLEM mission including a powered Mars flyby. As explained in the post text, a powered flyby would reduce mission duration and, in 1978, cut by more than half the quantity of propellants needed to reach Mars; it would, however, also cause the FLEM Flyby Spacecraft to pass as near the Sun as Mercury's orbit. Closest approach to the Sun would occur in 1979, during a period of maximum solar activity. Because of this, we rejected both the 1978 opportunity and the powered flyby. We chose instead a Mars flyby launched in 1981, when solar activity would be in decline. Earth-return speed would be high (about 50,000 feet per second), so we decided to employ a maneuver pioneered during the 1975 flyby: a braking burn during Earth approach to reduce reentry speed to Apollo lunar-return speed (36,000 feet per second). 
The two images above show the Apollo CM-based Earth-Return Module (ERM) and its braking stage during final Earth approach. The ERM/braking stage would have backed out of its "hangar" in the Flyby Spacecraft two days before the events portrayed here. In the top image, the braking stage engines have just shut down after the braking burn; their engine bells still glow red. In the bottom image, the spent braking stage has been cast off. Below the ERM, city lights outline the Indian subcontinent; in the background, over the western Pacific, dawn glows. The ERM will soon streak through the atmosphere over China and Japan, deploy four parachutes, and descend to a mid-morning splashdown southwest of Hawaii, completing the first FLEM voyage and a new evolutionary step toward humans on Mars.
All images in this post are Copyright 2017 by William Black (http://william-black.deviantart.com/) and are used by special arrangement with the artist.

Sources

Manned Mars and.or Venus Flyby Vehicle Systems Study - Final Briefing Brochure, SID 65-761-6, North American Aviation, 18 June 1965

"FLEM - Flyby-Landing Excursion Mode," AIAA Paper 66-36, R. R. Titus; paper presented at the 3rd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in New York, New York, 24-26 January 1966

Planetary Exploration Utilizing a Manned Flight System, Planetary Joint Action Group, NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, 3 October 1966

"Manned Expeditions to Mars and Venus," E. Z. Gray and F. Dixon, Voyage to the Planets, Proceedings of the Fifth Goddard Memorial Symposium, 14-15 March 1967, pp. 107-135

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, Stephen Jay Gould, W. W. Norton & Co., 1990

More Information

After EMPIRE: Using Apollo Technology to Explore Mars and Venus (1965)

Relighting the FIRE: A 1966 Proposal for Piloted Interplanetary Mission Reentry Tests

To Mars by Way of Eros (1966)

Apollo Ends at Venus: A 1967 Proposal for Single-Launch Piloted Venus Flybys in 1972, 1973, and 1975

Triple-Flyby: Venus-Mars-Venus Piloted Missions in the Late 1970s/Early 1980 (1967)