This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Project Horizon - Chapter 1

Horizon LERV
Horizon LERV - Lunar-Earth Return Vehicle as designed by Von Braun team for Project Horizon

Credit: US Army. 27,665 bytes. 198 x 413 pixels.

9 JUNE 1959





CRD/1 (S) Proposal to Establish a Lunar Outpost ( C )

Chief of Ordnance CRD 20 Mar 1959

1. (U) Reference letter to Chief of Ordnance from Chief of Research and Development, subject as above.

2. (C) Subsequent to approval by the Chief of Staff of reference, representatives of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency indicated that supplementary guidance would be required concerning the scope of the preliminary investigation specified in the reference. In particular these representatives requested guidance concerning the source of funds required to conduct the investigation.

3. (S) I envision expeditious development of the proposal to establish a lunar outpost to be of critical importance to the U. S. Army of the future. This evaluation is apparently shared by the Chief of Staff in view of his expeditious approval and enthusiastic endorsement of initiation of the study. Therefore, the detail to be covered by the investigation and the subsequent plan should be as complete as is feasible in the time limits allowed and within the funds currently available within the office of the Chief of Ordnance. In this time of limited budget, additional monies are unavailable. Current programs have been scrutinised rigidly and identifiable "fat" trimmed away. Thus high study costs are prohibitive at this time.

4. (C) I leave it to your discretion to determine the source and the amount of money to be devoted to this purpose.

No contacts with agencies outside the Army will be made until after the results of the preliminary investigation have been presented to the Department of the Defense. The findings of the initial investigation will be made through my office to the Chief of Staff. No additional distribution will be made and no public release will be made concerning this project. Because of the sensitive aspects of this proposal it is essential that this project not be disclosed prematurely;

5. Your plan of accomplishment should include full utilisation of the other technical services and combat arms to the extent feasible and necessary. In the accomplishment of this investigation the Chief of Engineers all be responsible for the design, constriction, and maintenance of the base and the Chief Signal Officer will be responsible for communications and other support for which he is peculiarly qualified. Specific emphasis should be given to the Army-wide capability to contribute to this project. The results of this preliminary investigation are requested by 15 May 1959.

6. Reproductions of this letter to the extent you deem essential is authorised. All copies will be recorded.


Lieutenant General, GS
Chief of Research and Development

Requirement for a Lunar Outpost

1. General.

There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon. The lunar outpost is required to develop and protect potential United States interests on the moon; to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the moon, for further exploration into space and for military operations on the moon if required; and to support scientific investigations on the moon.

2. Operational Concept.

Initially the outpost will be of sufficient size and contain sufficient equipment to permit the survival and moderate constructive activity of a minimum number of porsonne1 (about 10 - 20) on a sustained basis. It must be designed for expansion of facilities, resupply, and rotation of personnel to ensure maximum extension of sustained occupancy. It should be designed to be self-sufficient for as long as possible without outside support. In the location and design of the base, consideration will be given to operation of a triangulation station of a moon-to-earth base line space surveillance system, facilitating communications with and observation of the earth, facilitating travel between the moon and the earth, exploration of the moon and further explorations of space, and to the defence of the base against attack if required. The primary objective is to establish the first permanent manned installation on the moon. Incidental to this mission drill be the investigation of the scientific, commercial, and military potential of the moon.

3. Background of Requirement.

a. References:

  1. NSC policy on outer space.

  2. OCB Operations Plan on Outer Space.

b. Reason for Requirement.

  1. The national policy on outer space includes the objective of development and exploiting US outer space capabilities as needed to achieve scientific, military, and potential purposes. The OCB Operations Plan to implement this policy establishes a specific program to obtain scientific data on space environment out to the vicinity of the moon, including the moon's gravitational and magnetic fields and to explore the characteristics of the moon's surface. There are no known technica1 barriers to the establishment of a manned installation on the moon.

    Horizon Final BaseHorizon Final Base - Project Horizon Lunar Outpost in as it would appear by late 1965

    Credit: US Army. 10,141 bytes. 463 x 327 pixels.

  2. The establishment of a manned base of operations on the moon has tremendous military and scientific potential. Because invaluable scientific, military, and political prestige will come to the nation that first establishes a lunar base, it is imperative that the United States be first.

  3. The full extent of the military potential cannot be predicted, but it is probable that observation of the earth and space vehicles from the moon will prove to be highly advantageous. By using a moon-to- earth base line, space surveillance by triangulation promises great range and accuracy. The presently contemplated earth-based tracking., and control network will be inadequate for the deep space operations contemplated. Military communications may be greatly improved by the use of a moon-based relay station. The employment of moon-based weapons systems against earth or space targets may prove to be feasible and desirable. Moon-based military power will be a strong deterrent to war because of the extreme difficulty, from the enemy point of view, of eliminating our ability to retaliate. Any military operations on the moon will be difficult to counter by the enemy because of the difficulty of his reaching the moon, if our forces arc already present and have means of countering a landing or of neutralising any hostile forces that have landed. The situation is reversed if hostile forces are permitted to arrive first. They can militarily counter our landings and attempt to deny us politically the use of their property.

  4. The scientific advantages are equally difficult to predict but are highly promising. Study of the universe, of the moon, and of the space environment will all be aided by scientific effort on the moon. Perhaps the most promising scientific advantage is the usefulness of a moon base for further explorations into space. Materials on the moon itself may prove to be valuable and commercially exploitable.

4. Organisational Concept.

The establishment of the outpost should be a special project having authority and priority similar to the Manhattan Project in World War II. Once established, the lunar base will be operated under the control of a unified space command. Space, or certainly that portion of outer space encompassing the earth and the moon, will be considered a military theatre. The control of all United States military forces by unified commands is already established and military operations in space should be no exception. A unified space command should control and utilise, besides the lunar base, operationa1 military satellites and space vehicles, space surveillance systems, and the logistical support thereof. Other space commands might be organised as our operations extended to translunar space.

Horizon Initial PlanHorizon Initial Plan - Project Horizon Initial Two Man Round Trip to Lunar Surface

Credit: US Army. 8,064 bytes. 507 x 377 pixels.

5. Degree of Urgency.

To be second to the Soviet Union in establishing an outpost on the moon would be disastrous to our nation's prestige and in turn to our democratic philosophy. Although it is contrary to United States policy, the Soviet Union in establishing the first permanent base, may claim the moon or critical areas thereof for its own. Then a subsequent attempt to establish an outpost by the United States might be considered and propagandised as a hostile act. The Soviet Union in propaganda broadcasts has announced the 50th anniversary of the present government (1967) will be celebrated by Soviet citizens on the moon. The National Space policy intelligence estimate is that the Soviets could land on the moon by 1968.

6. Maintenance and Supply Implications.

The maintenance and supply effort to support a lunar base will be high by present standards. Continued delivery of equipment and means of survival will be required and each delivery will be costly. Every conceivable solution for minimising the logistic effort must be explored. Maximum use of any oxygen or power source on the moon through regenerative or other techniques must be exploited. Means of returning safely to earth must be available to the occupants of the outpost.

7. Training and Personnel Implications.

The number of personnel on the base itself trill be quite small, at least initially, but the total number of personnel supporting the effort may be quite large. Until further study is made a realistic qualitative and quantitative personnel estimate cannot be provided. The training requirements of earth-based support personnel would resemble those of personnel in long range ballistic missile units and radar tracking systems. For the relatively small number of personnel actually transported to the moon base training requirements would be exacting in many fields.

8. Additional Items and Requirements.

A complete family of requirements and supporting research and development projects will be necessary to develop all of the supporting equipment to establish a lunar base. Very high thrust boosters, space vehicles, intermediate space stations, space dwellings, clothing and consumable supplies will have to be developed.



9 JUNE 1959


Horizon Space DockHorizon Space Dock - Assembly and fuelling of translunar stages and spacecraft for Project Horizon in Equatorial Earth Orbit

Credit: US Army. 7,917 bytes. 448 x 312 pixels.




HORIZON is the project whose objective is the establishment of a lunar outpost by the United States. This study was directed by letter dated 20 March 1959, from the Chief of R&D, Department of the Army, to the Chief of Ordnance. Responsibility for the preparation of the study was subsequently assigned to the Commanding General, Army Ordnance Missile Command. Elements of all Technical Services of the Army participated in the investigation. This report is a limited feasibility study which investigates the methods and means of accomplishing this objective and the purposes it will serve. It also considers the substantial political, scientific and security implications which the prompt establishment of a lunar outpost will have for the United States.


1. The Broad Requirement

The US national policy on space includes the objective of developing and exploiting this nation's space capability as necessary to achieve national political, scientific, and security objectives. The establishment of a manned outpost in the lunar environment will demonstrate United States leadership in space. It will also provide a basis for further explorations and operations on the lunar surface as well as a supporting capability for other US operations in space.

2. Purpose of the Lunar Outpost

The establishment of a manned US outpost on the moon will:

3. A Realistic Objective

Advances in propulsion, electronics, space medicine and other astronautical sciences are taking place at an explosive rate. As recently as 1949, the first penetration of space war accomplished by the US when a two-stage V-2 rocket reached the then unbelievable altitude of 250 miles. In 1957, the Soviet Union placed the first man-made satellite in orbit. Since early l958, when the first US earth satellite was launched, both the US and USSR have launched additional satellites, moon probes, and successfully recovered animals sent into space in missiles. In 1960, and thereafter, there will be other deep space probes by the US and the USSR, with the US planning to place the first man into space with a REDSTONE missile, followed in 1961 with the first man in orbit. However, the Soviets could very well place a man in space before we do. In addition, instrumented lunar landings probably will be accomplished by 1964 by both the United States and the USSR. As will be indicated in the technical discussions of this report, the first US manned lunar landing could be accomplished by 1965. Thus, it appears that the establishment of an outpost on the moon is a capability which can be accomplished.

Horizon Project PlanHorizon Project Plan - Project Horizon Vehicle Requirements and Launching Schedule

Credit: US Army. 9,459 bytes. 698 x 355 pixels.

4. Scientific Implications

A wealth of scientific data can be obtained from experiments conducted at a lunar outpost. Without doubt, the scientific community will generate many new and unique applications as man's actual arrival on the moon draws nearer reality. The very absence of knowledge about the moon and outer space is scientific justification to attempt to breach this void of human understanding.

It is to be expected that civilian efforts to advance science for the sake of science will parallel the military efforts. It is also expected that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will treat those subjects in greater detail than is either possible or desirable in this study, and that such action will further strengthen the requirement for the earliest possible establishment of an extraterrestrial outpost.

5. Political Implications

The political implications of our failure to be first in space are a matter of public record. This failure has reflected adversely on United States scientific and political leadership. To some extent we have recovered the loss. However, once having been second best in the eyes of the world's population, we are not now in a position to afford being second on any other major step in space. However, the political implications of being second in space activities accomplished to date have not been nearly as serious as those which could result from failure to be the first in establishing a manned lunar outpost.

The results of failure to first place man on an extra-terrestrial base will raise grave political questions and at the same time lower US prestige and influence. The Soviet Union has announced openly its intention that some of its citizens will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution (1967) on the moon. The US intelligence community agrees that the Soviet Union may accomplish a manned lunar landing at any time after 1965. Judging from past experience, it is not difficult to visualise all manner of political and legal implications which the Soviet Union might postulate as a result of such a successful accomplishment nor the military advantages it might achieve thereby.

6. Security Implications

The extent to which future operations might be conducted in space, to include the land mass of the moon or perhaps other planets, is of such a magnitude as to almost defy the imagination. In both Congressional and military examination of the problem, it is generally agreed that the interactions of space and terrestrial war are so great as to generate radically new concepts.

Horizon Launch SiteHorizon Launch Site - Project Horizon Terrestrial Launch Site

Credit: US Army. 11,129 bytes. 434 x 310 pixels.

Admittedly, the security significance of the moon, per se, in the context of offensive and defensive operations, is a matter for conjecture at this time. From the viewpoint of national security, the primary implications of the feasibility of establishing a lunar outpost is the importance of being first. Clearly the US would not be in a position to exercise an option between peaceful and military applications unless we are first. In short, the establishment of the initial lunar outpost is the first definitive step in exercising our options.

7. Summary

Unquestionably, there are other applications of space (i. e. reconnaissance, meteorology, communications) which will permit an earlier attainment of meaningful accomplishments and demonstrate US interest in space. Individually, however, these accomplishments will not have the same political impact that a manned lunar outpost could have on the world. In the still vague body of fact and thought on the subject, world opinion may view the other applications similar to action on the high seas, but will view the establishment of a first lunar outpost as similar to proprietary rights derived from first occupancy. As the Congress has noted, we are caught in a stream in which we have no choice but to proceed. Our success depends on the decisiveness with which we exercise our current options. The lunar outpost is the most immediate case. It is the basis for other more far-reaching actions, such as further interplanetary exploration.


Four major conclusions summarise the more detailed deductions which may be drawn from the entire report:

  1. Political, scientific, and security considerations indicate that it is imperative for the United States to establish a lunar outpost at the earliest practicable date.

  2. Project HORIZON represents the earliest feasible capability for the U. S. to establish a lunar outpost. By its implementation, the United States can establish an operational lunar outpost by late 1966, with the initial manned landings to have taken place in the spring of 1965.

  3. The importance of an early decision to proceed with the program. coupled with adequate funding, must be clearly understood Inordinate delay will have two inescapable results:

    • The program's ultimate accomplishment will be delayed, thus forfeiting the change of defeating the USSR in a race which is already openly recognised as such throughout the world.

    • Delayed initiation, followed later by a crash program, which would likely be precipitated by evidence of substantial Soviet progress in a lunar outpost program, will not only lose the advantage of timeliness but also will inevitably involve significantly higher costs and lower reliability. The establishment of a U. S. lunar outpost will require very substantial funding whether it is undertaken now or ten years hence. There are no developments projected for the predictable future which will provide order of magnitude type price reductions.

  4. The U. S. Army possesses the capability of making significant contributions in all aspects of such a program.

The Project HORIZON report has been divided into two volumes, which are entitled as follows:

Volume I is, as indicated, a document which gives a short summary of the other volume, a discussion of non-technical considerations, and a resume of the resources and facilities of the Army Technical Services which can lend support to this program.

Volume II is a technical investigation of the problem. It includes practical preliminary concepts for all elements of the program and. in many cases, relates actual hardware available from current programs to the solution of specific problems. It includes a broad development approach and a funding breakout by fiscal year. Also included are personnel and training requirements for all segments of the operation together with the policy of the US with respect to space and the legal implication of a lunar outpost. This volume was prepared by a unique working group, comprised of a special segment of the Future Projects Design Branch of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), which was augmented by highly qualified representatives of each of the eleven Technical Services of the Army. These representatives were carefully selected for the specific task and, during the course of the study, became resident members of the aforementioned ABMA group. The resident representatives or the Technical Services were supported by their respective services with a group of the highest calibre specialists who were made available exclusively to support the project. Thus, it is believed that the depth of experience, knowledge, and judgement brought to bear on the problem by this group is commensurate with the task of accomplishing the report objectives.

Throughout the preparation of the entire report, and especially within this technical volume, the guiding philosophy has been one of enlightened conservatism of technical approach. Briefly stated, this philosophy dictates that one must vigorously pursue research to "advance the state-of-the-art?', but that paramount to successful major systems design is a conservative approach which requires that no item be more "advanced" than required to do the job. It recognises that an unsophisticated success is of vastly greater importance than a series of advanced and highly sophisticated failures that "almost worked. " Established engineering principals, used in conjunction with the best available design parameters, have been applied throughout in order to remove the elements of science fiction and unrealistic planning.

Continued- the best is yet to come! - go to Chapter 2

Back to Index
Last update 12 March 2001.
Contact Mark Wade with any corrections or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
© Mark Wade, 2001 .