How NASA planned missions to Mars and Venus




Solar system

Anticipating the explosion of support after the moon landing, NASA started thinking about more serious things. Imagine three astronauts, 150 million kilometers from Earth, a conversation with “Houston” with four-minute delay. They did not see anything in the ports, except for stars on a background of total darkness, the last 150 days. With the carefully designed path, the astronauts slowly come to the orbit of Venus and see the thick layer of clouds …

It looks like a science fiction movie plot, does not it? However, in the late 60’s, NASA planned to send a mission to the people on Venus and Mars, using the technology of the era of “Apollo.” These missions would fly in 70-80 years on the basis of people’s expectations and the increased interest in the conquest of outer space after a successful landing, “Apollo.” Yes, it was a very courageous mission, but they do not need anything, except what was already at hand.
Apollo Applications Program

The program NASA «Apollo” peaked in 1965. Halfway from its inception to the end of lunar exploration, the program achieved success as well as losing support. The money was badly needed in other places in solving domestic issues, and in Southeast Asia, where the Vietnam War was raging.

Concerns about the future of “Apollo” after landing on the moon led to the creation of Apollo Applications. It was an attempt to keep the agency team that gave birth to “Apollo” and use its expertise in the development of other missions that have brought mankind into space. At the heart of these missions was to be a scientific, not a political idea. It is difficult to say, it would be full-fledged mission or not, but at least they would show that NASA could have done with existing technology, “Apollo.”

The first vague objectives of the program was to establish a manned orbiting laboratory and send missions to the planets closest to the technology, “Apollo” – two goals that would ensure the continuation of the production configuration of the NASA Apollo-Saturn. But these goals are not compelling enough. NASA could not continue the construction of single-use devices “Apollo” and the rockets ‘Saturn 5’ without specific tasks on the agenda.


Mariner-2 Eyes of the Artist

To find them, the agency has asked the Bellcomm, division of AT & T, created in March 1962 to support the space agency missions and theoretical evaluation of the independent analysis. Bellcomm NASA employees and led to the possibility of manned missions to Venus and Mars.

August 27, 1962 NASA launched the first ever probe to Venus. Mariner 2 was thirty thousand kilometers from the surface of the planet on December 14 before going out on a heliocentric orbit. It was a mission to fly, rather than a careful study of a neighbor, but the probe found that Venus has no magnetic field is strong and that the planet is very, very hot. Mariner-2 was also found that the activity of Venus radiation damages not more than anywhere else outside of the magnetic field of the Earth. This fact, along with the firm belief that the clouds of Venus hides many secrets, made a mission on this planet is very attractive.

Venus was a worthy object of study (given that no one knows what lies beneath the clouds of Venus), and thus could give the necessary impetus to the development of the program Apollo Applications.

From the point of view of Bellcomm, go to Venus was easy. A key element of the success of “Apollo”, which was evident even before the flight to the moon, was the fact that the spacecraft has a modular design. With a three-way spacecraft – lunar module, which sits on the moon, the service module as the main power unit, and the unit returns to the moon – it was possible to give up each section as soon as it ceased to be necessary. So, missing one rocket “Saturn 5” to start the entire structure.


The spacecraft, designed for Venus

At the heart of the mission to Venus, the proposed Bellcomm, lay the same modular approach: the construction of triangular craft that can take off on a “Saturn-5”. Venusian mission also has involved a team and a service module “Apollo” as a major. The command module was to become the core of the machine, in which the crew took off and came back. It practically does not differ from the lunar module, with the exception of 430 pounds of ablative material that would protect the ship from the atmosphere – the return of the crew are from Venus was to go by faster than the return from the moon.

The rest of the spacecraft would be the same. The computer in the command module would be a major supplier of information and navigation control throughout the mission, as it was during the flight of “Apollo” on the moon. All you had to do – change the program to calculate the trajectory and go. NASA on Earth would monitor all movements of the ship.

More importantly, CSM, that is, the command module was to be the lifeboat crew. The only module capable of flying from the battery – you need at the time of re-entry to Earth. CSM was the module in which the crew could take refuge in the event of a failure after launch. With fully charged batteries, tied to Venus CSM could be a great refuge for 60 days. There were even a three-week ration supplies for the crew in case he lands somewhere in the desert at the end of the mission. The same number of provisions were in the hands of the crew.

But the command module was too small for such a mission duration. Mission to Venus did not involve the use of the lunar module, so that part was removed and replaced with larger environmental support module (ESM). But the ESM not start with CSM; astronauts had to connect two modules in flight. In the same way astronauts ‘Apollo’ connected the lunar module on the way to the moon.



The last module of the Venus “Apollo” was SIV-B. It was the upper stage of the “Saturn-5”, and its main function was to move the ship from the orbit of the Earth to Venus. At that time, as the moon cast a team of this module is on the way to the moon, the group, flying to Venus will keep it attached. He will be their main place to live after the update. All that the crew would be for this to be stored in the ESM. Purified SIV-B will also be a major source of energy during the mission. Because the module is the biggest, solar panels on the exterior panels had to save enough energy to support all three modules and keep the battery charged CSM just fire case.

All three modules are planned to increase to protect the crew from micrometeorites or large meteorites, although none of them is particularly hazardous. But solar flares constitute a definite hazard, given the fact that the crew was flying toward the sun. Flybys of Venus, the crew will be at a distance of 85 million kilometers from the sun. As a precaution, ESM was enhanced by special shield against radiation. Thus, the module would be safe even in the case of a solar storm.

Report of Bellcomm for 1967 outlined the main points in the mission to Venus: Ideally, it would run the ship during the months of October 31, 1973. The ideal time to start. Not only because the world will line up as desired, but also because he was promised a year of low solar activity.

Manned mission to Venus

The crew stopped briefly at the Earth would orbit after launch from Cape Canaveral, checked all systems, whether they work. Then he would have activated the engine SVI-B, typing speed needed to reach Venus. This activation would mark the beginning of the path 123 days, during which the crew would observe deep space with ultraviolet, infrared and X-ray telescopes installed in ESM.

Approximately 3 March 1974 the crew would reach Venus. Telescopes broad spectrum would allow to look under the surface of the Venusian clouds, the crew would collect data on the planet’s surface, the chemical composition of the lower atmosphere, the gravitational field and the properties of the different layers of clouds. It could even be automated to release probes small craft to an atmospheric data back to the ship in real time.

Using the gravity of Venus, the crew could gain enough momentum to get back to Earth. Planetary geometry indicated that the team will return for 273 days.

Throughout the mission, the crew would have to send data to scientists on Earth to control the mission. This would reduce the workload and would eliminate the need to load the camera crew – the command module could not take much. With a constant flow of data, scientists could change the direction of the ship’s crew or ask to repeat the experiment or observation.

The crew would return to Earth about December 1, 1974. The entire mission would take 400 days.
400 days of life in space

For the 400-day mission, the crew would have had to prepare and ship, but it was not impossible. The hardest part was onboard processing and storage system.

The crew was provided 500 pounds of water (about 200 liters). 100 of them were stored in the ESM and were processed during the mission, providing the crew with fresh drinking water, while other 400 were reserved in the event of an emergency. The atmosphere was also subjected to processing. But at canisters of lithium hydroxide, which “Apollo” would take to the moon (carbon filters remove carbon dioxide from the air, but the canisters can not be reused), mission Apollo-Venus relied on a molecular sieve. It would absorb atmospheric water from the astronauts’ sweat and breath, absorbing silica gel. Were on board and cans, but as in the case of the additional water the CSM, they were on the safe side.

From the lunar mission was not only the Venusian atmosphere purification system: the whole atmosphere was different. While the mission of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo all used pure oxygen atmosphere, mission Apollo-Venus had to first get double the gas system: 70 percent oxygen and 30 percent nitrogen. This decision was dictated not only by the fear of an onboard fire. Just no one was sure how the crew physiologically accept 400-day sentence in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. More complicated and difficult system has been designed for the safety of the crew.

As the system environment, the crew will have to be autonomous in this mission. Ten kilograms of drugs meant that the astronauts had to watch out for each other, treat most minor cuts and bruises. Nor should remain no rubbish in bags for feces and other things in the ESM would have housed up to 100 kilograms of garbage, neutralized it, and they can be stored as waste and excess food.

From the point of view of the human factor, the daily life of astronauts had to balance between work and play. Ten hours each day devoted to the mission – the experiments, observations, general maintenance unit. The remaining time is devoted to leisure. This included food and sleep. Each astronaut was given two hours of time every day, during which you can read, watch movies or play games. To prevent muscle atrophy, the astronauts were obliged to work with an exercise bike.

Proposal Bellcomm 1967 was a perfectly viable – as, in principle, and the planned mission to Mars in 2020 – but she had one major drawback. In return for 400 days of the flight crew offered a fleeting look at the planet. Orbital mission would give the team more time to study Venus, that would justify such a long mission. And at the research center at NASA Lewis found a way to get people into orbit around Venus.

Orbital mission to Venus would walk the same path as the fly-around, but you need to bring the planetary alignment of the crew on orbit would increase the duration of the mission up to 320 days. After reaching the goal, the spacecraft would go out on a high elliptical orbit. After 40 days, the crew went to a 205-day journey back to Earth.

During his stay near Venus, the crew would have gone for three radii of the planet on each orbit, close enough to the radio equipment was able to break through the clouds. But such an elliptical orbit would be much better than the usual flying around.

And though the 565-day mission for two days of close observation was not ideal, it still was better than to fly in the same mode to look at Mars. Even if you run in a perfect window, the mission to Mars would require more fuel and resources, thus would become more expensive. Under the same conditions of departure, the crew would have reached the red planet for 252 days, which would have remained about 20 days and then went to a 178-day journey home.

But there was another way to send people to neighboring planets, which looked much more partiality for investment: to visit two planets in a single mission.
The planetary billiards Bellcomm


Venus was not only an attractive target for the mission “Apollo.” Mars was another target. Research agency has identified opportunities flyby of Mars in the period from 1978 to 1986, which is well within the terms of the increased interest in space from people on the wave of success of the lunar trip “Apollo.” As circled Venus, this flight would use the free return trajectory: the team had to make a loop around the planet and get back home. During the flight, the astronauts would have conducted experiments and observations, as well as launched a probe. It was even possible to make the soil sampling probe.

But even with the trajectory of a free return flight to Mars require more fuel to start. More than flyby of Venus. Therefore Bellcomm offered an interesting solution. NASA could send a crew to Venus at first, and then, using the momentum of the flyby of Venus to Mars to look for the way back. It was the same technique that made “Voyager” in the 70s.

Bellcomm researchers found that Venus and Mars are often aligned, presenting opportunities for dual flyby mission. Between 1978 and 1986 there were five of favorable launch window for Venus Mars mission. Some versions even considered triple circled: the second zaletom to Venus on the way home.

One window Bellcomm identified in 1981. The script had to turn around May 26 and turn into a 790-day mission. It began like a Venusian option: Venus orbits the team on December 28, falls on Mars October 5, 1982, and again passes Venus March 1, 1983 before returning home on July 25. The least favorable launch date in 1981 has added only 60 days of flight, so was quite viable. In November 1978, also had options of double flyby (Earth-Venus-Mars-Earth) and even triple (Earth-Venus-Mars-Venus-Earth).

These numerous overflights of the mission, being twice longer than the Venusian, brought to astronauts and spacecraft to the limit. But the scientific payoff was priceless. As the planets revolve around the sun is always in and around its own axis, each mission, even every step of the mission the astronauts would have led to different parts of the world. Some paths led the crew on the day side near the equator, while the other threw the dark side near the pole. In each case, infrared sensors and radar mapping of the astronauts could do all the work when it is impossible to make out the details with the naked eye. There was no bad moments in these missions.


From the outset, the program Apollo Applications faced with a real problem: NASA does not have enough money to continue construction of the hardware “Apollo” or run the great mission in the best tradition of the series, the crisis has worsened to the extent that, as the moon program came to an end.

But it is not only the lack of funds doomed mission overflight Venus and Mars. Offers Bellcomm never been recommended. Rather, they are research, proof of concept to show what types of missions NASA can launch the Apollo with the technology and how it can modify the technology as part of the Apollo Applications. Ideas were to serve as a guide agencies in developing future missions. But for the most part, they have never gone beyond the initial investigation Bellcomm.

With one exception. Far-sighted plans for interplanetary manned missions NASA settled in the form of an orbiting space station, which finally flew called Skylab. Instead of staying in orbit, the stage SIV-B «Saturn-5″ has returned to Earth lab and launched into orbit May 14, 1973. Three crew inhabited the station for 171 days a year thereafter.

Nine years of life Skylab seemed ample at the time of launch, but by the end of the decade NASA could not maintain it. The orbit of the station was broken and she fell to the earth. Skylab, the last working equipment program Apollo Applications, burned in an atmosphere of 11 July 1979, scattering the remains over Australia.

Well, today, NASA is going through to better days than when the agency could lead humanity into space, but he did not have enough money.
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