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Aelita - MPK
Aelita - MPK - The OKB-1 Aelita Mars spacecraft would be launched into near-Earth orbit using the N1M launch vehicle. The proposed Mars Expeditionary Complex (MEK) included this Mars Landing Craft (MPK) for landing on the Martian surface.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 33,864 bytes. 429 x 389 pixels.

Manufacturer's Designation: Mars Expeditionary Complex. Class: Manned. Type: Mars Expedition. Nation: Russia. Manufacturer: Korolev.

By the beginning of 1969 it was apparent that the moon race had been lost - and NASA was already promoting ambitious plans for a manned Mars expedition as a follow-on to Apollo. The Soviet response was Project Aelita. Three design bureaux, led by chief designers Mishin, Yangel, and Chelomei, began competitive design of manned Mars expeditions.

On 28 May 1969 V Mishin, Korolev's successor as Chief Designer of OKB-1, approved development of the N1M advanced version of the N1 launch vehicle. Feoktistov was tasked with preparing the OKB-1 version of Project Aelita and creating a design that would take advantage of the increased lift of the N1M. This expedition was called the Mars Expeditionary Complex (MEK). The design ground rules for the MEK were:

The MEK consisted of:

Aelita Mars Exped.Aelita Mars Exped. - Aelita Mars Expedition

Credit: © Mark Wade. 12,428 bytes. 388 x 179 pixels.

The 150 tonne MEK would be assembled in two launches of the N1M. The first launch would put the MOK and MPK in to low earth orbit. The second would place the YaERDU into a nearby orbit, after which it would automatically dock with the MOK /MPK section. Still unmanned, the MEK would begin its slow acceleration spiral away from the Earth. After the MEK had cleared the Earth's radiation belts, the crew would be launched aboard a Soyuz 7K-L1 / Block D complex by a Proton booster. The Soyuz would rendezvous and dock with the MEK in high earth orbit.

Aelita Mars ShipAelita Mars Ship - Aelita Mars Spacecraft

Credit: © Mark Wade. 1,084 bytes. 399 x 57 pixels.

The MEK would continue to slowly accelerate until it reached earth escape velocity. The crew would have plenty of time to fully check out the systems and abandon ship in their Soyuz lifeboat if any problems developed before Earth escape. After reaching Mars trajectory velocity, the ion engines would shut down and the nuclear reactor would go into a low power coast / spacecraft power generation mode. After 135 days of coasting flight, the engines would begin operating again, taking 61 days to brake into a high Mars orbit and then a further 24 days to spiral into a low polar Mars orbit.

Aelita - MEKAelita - MEK - On the left, the OKB-1 Aelita Mars spacecraft that would be launched into near-Earth orbit using the N1M launch vehicle.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 50,376 bytes. 488 x 330 pixels.

After a week of reconnaissance from orbit, three of the crew would enter the MPK and head for the selected landing site on the Martian surface. Following completion of a week's surface studies, the crew would be boosted into Martian orbit by the MPK ascent stage, and then automatically rendezvous and dock with the MOK. After a further period of studies from orbit, the MEK's ion engines would be restarted and the acceleration spiral away from Mars would begin. It would take 17 days to escape Mars, and the engine would accelerate the MOK for another 66 days until it was placed on a fast Earth return orbit, passing between the orbits of Venus and Mercury. The engine would be restarted for a 17-day brake manoeuvre at perihelion to reduce approach speed with the earth. After a short coast, the engine would be restarted a final time to brake the complex prior to the separation of the VA landing capsule for return to the Earth of the crew and their Martian samples.

Soviet cosmonautSoviet cosmonaut - Soviet cosmonaut becomes first to step on Martian surface from MPK landing craft.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 14,196 bytes. 217 x 161 pixels.

From fore to aft, the MEK consisted of:

Aelita Ascent StageAelita Ascent Stage

Credit: RKK Energia. 22,276 bytes. 310 x 238 pixels.

By the end of 1969 Mishin and Yangel dropped out of the competition. At OKB-1 it was felt that a more gradual approach would be more in keeping with state resources. First the N1 launch vehicle, as yet unproven, had to be fully developed. Then the TMK should be thoroughly tested and developed in Earth Orbit. This could be followed by a simple Mars fly by expedition. The MEK or its successor would be left for the next Century.


Credit: RKK Energia. 14,267 bytes. 340 x 237 pixels.



Aelita LanderAelita Lander - Aelita Lander on Mars

Credit: RKK Energia. 25,982 bytes. 307 x 237 pixels.

Aelita MartianAelita Martian

Credit: RKK Energia. 23,027 bytes. 311 x 239 pixels.

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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .