The Lunar Exploration And Science Conferences Of 1965 And 1967

In July 1965, NASA's Manned Space Science Coordinating Committee sponsored a conference in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Lasting two weeks, the Summer Conference on Lunar Exploration and Science was convened to map out a ten-year program of lunar exploration, with the emphasis on manned exploration. Working groups were formed in the areas of geology, geophysics, bioscience, geochemistry, astronomy, lunar atmospheric measurements and cartography. In a general sense, the conference looked at five major areas: Apollo, Lunar Orbiter, Apollo Extension System-Manned Lunar Orbiter (AES-MLO), Apollo Extension System-Manned Lunar Surface (AES-MLS) and Post-AES. At the end of the conference, each working group published its report. These reports were compiled into a Summary, published by NASA as SP-88. The section on AES-MLS specifically addressed the requirements for extended manned missions on the Moon. It is worthwhile to quote the enumerated topics from the Summary:

The primary objective of analytical devices used on the lunar surface should be to extend the power of the observer to differentiate materials that have similar characteristics. The optimum sample return capability would be between 200 and 270 kg (450-600 lb) per mission. The following basic types of equipment are required for this phase of lunar exploration:

1. Automatic position recording systems. Essential for tracking and recording the movements of the astronaut and the roving vehicle, and knowing the orientation of the camera. The system would automatically telemeter this information back to Earth or to the LEM.

2. Local Scientific Survey Module (LSSM). This surface roving vehicle should have the capability of carrying either one or two suited astronauts and scientific payload of at least 270 kg (600 lb). An operational range of 8 km (5 miles) radius is a minimum, and 15 km (9 miles) would be more useful. Remote control of the LSSM would also be advantageous both before and after the arrival of the astronauts.

3. Lunar Flying Vehicle (LFV). A LFV would be useful for extending the operational range of the AES and for studying features inaccessible to the LSSM due to topography. It should be able to carry a 135 kg (300 lb) scientific payload over a distance of 15 km (9 miles). Continued study should determine how effectively it can be employed in surface operation.

4. Lunar Drills. The development of a 2.5 cm (1 in) drill capable of penetrating to a depth of 3 m (10 ft) in either rubble or solid rock is recommended. It should be operable from a roving vehicle. It is necessary for lunar heat flow studies and for obtaining biological samples.

SP-88 was perhaps the first formal NASA document calling for a Lunar Roving Vehicle. In addition, it called for a positioning system relative to the rover, and the need for lunar drills. Three of the four recommendations would eventually be implemented. The Lunar Flying Vehicle continued to be the topic of serious discussion for several years.

A second conference was held at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 1967. This conference also proved pivotal to the direction of future Apollo missions. The primary goal of the conference was to arrive at a scientific consensus on future manned and unmanned exploration programs and the hardware necessary to achieve them within the Apollo Applications Program (AAP). The conference proved to be more contentious than consensus, however. Different working groups advocated different means of lunar surface mobility. In particular, the Geochemistry Working Group advocated a large lunar flying vehicle, while the Geology Working Group supported a combination of small Lunar Flying Units (LFU) in conjunction with the

General Motors' Defense Research Laboratories (GM-DRL) division performed extensive vehicle mobility studies for NASA during the 1960s as well. This MTA built by DRL is shown traversing a boulder obstacle field. (NASA/MSFC)

LSSM. At this conference, the attendees clearly saw the LSSM as a dual-mode vehicle, operating either manned or unmanned. Most interestingly, the position was clearly put forth that the Saturn V should be used in the dual-launch capacity. One Saturn V was viewed as insufficient to get men and material to the Moon as envisioned by the conferees. The summary of the conference had this telling statement: "The dual-mode LSSM is more complicated and has greater capability than the vehicle presently planned.'' Many of the capabilities of the dual-mode LSSM would, in fact, appear decades later on the Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity, such as stereo TV (camera) broadcast capability, dead-reckoning navigation, rock analysis, and other features. The "vehicle presently planned,'' was a cryptic reference to the Lunar Roving Vehicle that was being more seriously considered in the face of declining NASA budgets, which had peaked in 1965 at 5.25 billion dollars The published summary of the conference (SP-157) admitted to the possibility of the recommendations of the conference not being implemented in the future, and presented a fallback position in which a future conference might be necessary to redefine lunar missions, if the dual Saturn V launch mode could not be implemented due to severe budgetary restrictions.

Towards the end of the Santa Cruz conference, chairman Wilmot N. Hess formed the Group for Exploration Planning, made up of key members of the working groups. They would work with NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) towards implementation of the recommendations in mission planning, surface experiments and equipment selection, to support the scientific areas of the lunar missions. Maxime A. Faget was a member of this group and was also director of the MSC's Engineering and Development Branch. His word carried considerable clout, and he estimated the cost of engineering and building the long-range pressurized vehicle recommended at the second conference at upwards of a quarter of a billion dollars. It did not appear that the heavy, complex and expensive LSSM could realistically be funded. However, many of the recommendations to come out of the Santa Cruz conference were, in fact, adopted. Among them were the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) and other surface instrumentation.

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