Lunar Landers That Never Were
The road to the moon was paved with good intentions.
- By Tony Reichhardt
- AirSpaceMag.com, January 01, 2008
©2007 by Robert Godwin
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2. Martin Model 410 Lunar Direct (1961)
Within weeks of President John F. Kennedy’s May 15, 1961, announcement that the United States would land a man on the moon, the Martin company produced a staggering 9000-page study with their solutions to lunar flight. Martin produced at least three totally different designs for a lunar descent stage. Surely the most bizarre of these three designs involved a type of inflatable landing gear.
3. Lunar Gemini (1962)
All three of the proposed versions of Lunar Gemini [a plan to use NASA’s mid-60s Gemini spacecraft for the moon landings] had the fundamental drawback of not allowing the astronaut an unobstructed view of the lunar surface during descent. Creative solutions were required. Three different canopy configurations were proposed for landing, including an open hatch with a zippered canopy, a titanium reinforced bubble, or simply a rear-view mirror. The first of the three would allow for the least redesign work but would require the pilot to lean out of the hatch while flying down to the moon. In the rendering here you see the version that replaced the left hatch with a titanium and glass bubble that allowed the pilot to kneel and look down towards the moon while flying the vehicle.
4. Chrysler MLAV (1963)
Undoubtedly one of the strangest vehicles to come out of the early Apollo studies was the Chrysler Corporation’s Manned Lunar Auxiliary Vehicle—a nuclear tricycle. The MLAV had a cargo tray 23 inches by 41 inches in size, and could be operated with a hand controller either by a riding astronaut or by remote control. A full size prototype was built and tested by Chrysler. The power source for this machine was to have been a SNAP 91 radioisotope thermoelectric generator, although it is not clear where this device would have been located. Other refinements would have included a television camera. The three wheels were tested with brushless DC motors which provided enough torque for its projected mission. Its primary use was as a "pack animal," but it could be used to carry one astronaut if required. The entire vehicle could be folded up flat.
5. U.S. Geological Survey LMs (1964-1967)
One of the interesting offshoots of the Apollo training program was the deployment of what must surely be the strangest pair of Lunar Modules ever built. One was commissioned specifically by NASA for the U.S. Geological Survey scientific team that trained the lunar astronauts, and built to scale by Grumman in the summer of 1964. It was made entirely of plywood and its main mode of propulsion was a flatbed truck. Another cloth-covered LM [shown here] was little more than a LM-shaped tent and was deployed at the top of a ladder. It was designed purely to give the astronauts [John Young (top) and Charles Duke are picured] a basic feel for working with a home base during field training.