Lunar Landers That Never Were

The road to the moon was paved with good intentions.

In August of 1961, engineer John Houbolt gave one of many presentations to the Space Task Group [at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia, where he worked]. In attendance was Jim Chamberlin, the brilliant designer of the Canadian Avro Arrow fighter. (©2007 by Robert Godwin)

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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.

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