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Apollo Lunar Base
Apollo Lunar Base

Credit: NASA. 19,327 bytes. 462 x 355 pixels.

Class: Manned. Type: Lunar Base. Nation: USA. Agency: NASA.

The Apollo transportation system was not designed for support of a lunar base, in the sense that none of it was reused (although the Command Module could be made reusable). But it was in existence and offered potential for continued and extended lunar exploration, given proper funding. This potential was the subject of detailed studies by NASA, Boeing, North American Rockwell, and Grumman Aerospace Corporation. These studies were part of the larger program of post-Apollo earth orbit and lunar activities that would exploit the Saturn launch vehicle and Apollo spacecraft technology developed for Apollo. At various times, these activities were called Apollo X, Apollo Extension Systems (AES), or Apollo Applications Program (AAP). From 1965 to 1968 NASA planned to follow the initial Apollo lunar landing series with the build-up of ever more sophisticated lunar bases. But as the Viet Nam War and public indifference cut into NASA budgets, these plans were continuously cut-back. This can be seen in the number of Saturn V launches allocated by NASA for Apollo Applications Program lunar activities:

Apollo LOR ExpeditioApollo LOR Expeditio

Credit: NASA. 8,633 bytes. 431 x 281 pixels.

The three prime components of the Apollo system were the launch vehicle (Saturn V), the Command and Service Module (CSM), and the Lunar Module (LM). Each of these could be modified into a larger number of alternative configurations.

The standard Saturn V could deliver 49 metric tonnes into trans-lunar injection (TLI). The LM as personnel carrier delivered 2 astronauts and between 150 to 500 kg of discretionary payload to the lunar surface for an operational stay time of 3 days. The LM Taxi derivative could deliver (but not house) two astronauts to the surface and to return them to the orbiting CSM after a two week lunar surface stay in separately-landed habitat. The LM Taxi represented an LM modified slightly to give it the capability for a 14-day quiescent (inactive) lunar stay time, in addition to 3 days (active) operational time. At the same time, the CSM had to be given the capability)to operate with one astronaut for 30 days in lunar orbit. This affected primarily consumables (Lox/H2 for the fuel cells, RCS propellants, food, gases, and other life support consumables).

Apollo Lunar BaseApollo Lunar Base

Credit: NASA. 16,987 bytes. 485 x 357 pixels.

In order to house the astronauts during their 14-day stay, either an LM Shelter may be used, or a two-man STEP expandable shelter. The LM Shelter replaced the propellants and engine of the basic LM ascent stage with necessary consumables to support two weeks of lunar exploration. The STEP could be delivered by an LM descent stage together with a slightly higher discretionary payload than the LM shelter could carry. Either shelter would be delivered first by a logistics flight where the crew merely orbits in the CSM until the automated shelter-carrying LM has landed, and then returns to Earth, thus being able to use the Apollo CSM unchanged. The logistics flight was followed by the personnel transport. Because of the interval between first and second landing, the shelter-carrying LM must be given a 90-day quiescent capability. The second flight would land the crew using the LM Taxi while the 30-day CSM awaits in lunar orbit. After landing, the crew shuts down the LM Taxi and activates the shelter system. Two weeks later, the LM Taxi is reactivated and the crew returns to the CSM and back to Earth.

By modifying the third stage of the Saturn V (S-IVB) for operation in lunar space, and by providing a 40-day quiescent capability for an unmanned CSM in lunar orbit, all three astronauts could be landed on the Moon for a 30-day stay time.

Apollo LASSApollo LASS

Credit: NASA. 7,675 bytes. 377 x 249 pixels.

Instead of modifying the S-IVB, it would also be possible to achieve a significant extension of lunar surface capability by (1) using the Service Module (SM) for lunar descent, in addition to the LM descent stage and (2) by utilising the volume of the Spacecraft-LM Adapter (SLA) to install a mini-base of superior capacity and capability to the LM Shelter configurations previously considered. For LASS (LM Adapter Surface Station, the LM ascent stage was replaced by an SLA ‘mini-base’ and the position of the SM was reversed. The SLA "mini-base" carried consumables for 192 man-days on the lunar surface and 5,090 kg cargo, amounting to a total payload weight of 7,700 kg. This meant that a crew of two astronauts could stay for 96 days. The SLA included a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) and a Lunar Flying Unit (LFU) for the astronauts. Its cargo included 2,700 kg of mobility fuel for the LRV and LFU, plus 1,800 kg of scientific equipment.

The SLA mini-base would be delivered first by an unmanned shelter-logistics launch vehicle, followed by a personnel carrier launch which delivered two astronauts in an LM Taxi for the mini-base. Since it would not be practical to leave one astronaut in the CSM circling the moon for 100 days, the third astronaut flies the CSM back to Earth. Three months later, a third mission would be launched to return the lunar base crew to Earth.

Lunar ColonyLunar Colony - NASA Lunar Colony, NASA 1970 Concept

Credit: NASA via Marcus Lindroos. 43,694 bytes. 632 x 471 pixels.

In order to avoid the costly third launch, a small lunar orbiting base could be provided offering sufficient capacity for the astronauts in orbit to be active during their long stay-time in orbit. For this purpose, the SLA was extended by a cylindrical section to provide enough volume to house the Lunar Orbit Base (LOB) and the Lunar Surface Base (LSB). The resulting configuration could be delivered by a standard Saturn V. Delivery is unmanned, followed by a second launch carrying a CSM, modified to house 4 astronauts and an LM Taxi with a capacity for 2 astronauts. The LSB must have a quiescent capability of 100 days, and the LM Taxi 60 days.

First, the unmanned SLA LOB/LSB is delivered into lunar orbit, followed by the personnel transport launch. The two lunar surface astronauts occupy the LM Taxi, while the CSM with the two lunar orbit astronauts is transferred to the SLA LOB/LSB complex. There they control the unmanned descent of the LSB, using the first SM and the LM descent stage. Preceding or following the LSB landing, the surface astronauts descend in the LM Taxi.

The cargo delivered to the surface in the LSB, along with the consumables, was 3,100 kg for 2 men and 60 days, corresponding to 25.7 kg/man-day.


Craft.Crew Size: 3.

Apollo Lunar Base Chronology

24 May 1967 NASA realigned its Apollo and AAP launch schedules following the Apollo 204 accident in January. Program: OWS. Launch Vehicle: Saturn IB, Saturn V.

Because of the Apollo 204 accident in January and the resulting program delays, NASA realigned its Apollo and AAP launch schedules. The new AAP schedule called for 25 Saturn IB and 14 Saturn V launches. Major hardware for these launches would be two Workshops flown on Saturn IB vehicles, two Saturn V Workshops, and three ATMs. Under this new schedule, the first Workshop launch would come in January 1969.

03 October 1967 Budgetary cutbacks reduced AAP lunar activity to four missions and Saturn V Workshops to 17 Saturn IB and 7 Saturn V launches. Program: OWS. Launch Vehicle: Saturn IB, Saturn V.

NASA Hq issued a revised AAP schedule incorporating recent budgetary cutbacks. The schedule reflected the reduction of AAP lunar activity to four missions and of Saturn V Workshop activity to 17 Saturn IB and 7 Saturn V launches. There would be two Workshops launched on Saturn IBs, one Saturn V Workshop, and three ATMs. Launch of the first Workshop was scheduled for March 1970.

09 January 1968 Budgetary restraints required additional cuts in AAP to three Saturn IB and three Saturn V launches. Program: OWS. Launch Vehicle: Saturn IB, Saturn V.

NASA budgetary restraints required an additional cut in AAP launches. The reduced program called for three Saturn IB and three Saturn V launches, including one Workshop launched on a Saturn IB, one Saturn V Workshop, and one ATM. Two lunar missions were planned. Launch of the first Workshop would be in April 1970.

04 June 1968 New AAP schedule decreased to 11 Saturn IB flights and one Saturn V flight. Program: OWS. Launch Vehicle: Saturn IB, Saturn V.

NASA released a new AAP launch readiness and delivery schedule. The schedule decreased the number of Saturn flights to 11 Saturn IB flights and one Saturn V flight. It called for three Workshops. One of the Workshops would be launched by a Saturn IB, and another would serve as a backup. The third Workshop would be launched by a Saturn V. The schedule also included one ATM. Launch of the first Workshop would be in November 1970. Lunar missions were no longer planned in the AAP.


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