NASAs longterm planning 195964

A year later, on 16 December 1959, NASA issued its first ten-year plan, which included the long-term goal of manned exploration of the Moon and nearby planets. It also predicated the first launch of an astronaut in sub-orbital flight (Mercury-Redstone) in 1960, attainment of manned orbital flight (Mercury-Atlas) between 1961and 1962 and the first launches in a programme leading to manned circumlunar flight and a permanent near-Earth space station (1965-7). Then, after 1970, manned flight(s) to the surface of the Moon.11

By December 1960, NASA was submitting its request for funding in the 1962 fiscal year, and revealed for the first time the Apollo programme that would follow Mercury to attain at least circumlunar flight, if not develop the technologies and experience to land men on the Moon. The report also indicated the use of a Saturn C-2 launch vehicle (capable of launching 18,144 kg into low Earth orbit), utilising this capability to orbit a small laboratory that would stay aloft "for two weeks or more.'' Though smaller, instrumented craft could acquire more scientific information using lesser launch vehicles, the larger laboratory "might be of value as a life science laboratory to acquire physiological and psychological data on humans, to study life support mechanisms, to perform biological studies and to carry out engineering tests under gravity free conditions.''

For increasingly complex Apollo missions deeper into space, the family of Saturn launch vehicles would be superseded by the larger Nova rockets with a nuclear rocket stage, to support manned lunar surface exploration and, it was hoped, initial manned planetary expeditions in the 1970s.

The argument about the degree to which man adds an element of variety and quality to scientific observations and attainments over fully automated systems was also presented. Finally, the report stated: "Though man in space could not be justified purely on scientific grounds, most of the motivation and drive for the exploration of space comes from the dream of man getting into space himself.''

The following month, an ad hoc Committee on Space reported to the president elect (John F. Kennedy) on scientific and technical issues relating to the nation's space programme.12 This report reflected widespread scepticism within the scientific community over the value, and at that time the feasibility, of human space flight. It stated that, in planning space activities, scientific objectives must be assigned a prominent place and that the greatest wisdom and foresight should be applied to "the selection of the scientific missions and the scientists assigned to carry them out.'' This was not necessarily advocating scientist-astronauts, but rather principal investigators. However, it could be interpreted to suggest that the best people to perform science in space were not necessarily pilot-astronauts, but career scientists. The report went on to state, "NASA has not fulfilled all of the ... requirements (in the scientific exploration of

Chief designer Sergey Korolyov (left) talks with a beaming Yuri Gagarin, the first person to fly into space.

space) satisfactorily. The main obstacle here has been the lack of a strong scientific personality in the top echelons of its organisation." In its assessment of the pending entry of man into space (via Project Mercury), the report predicted that, "Some day it may be possible for men in space to accomplish important scientific or technical tasks. For the time being, however, it appears that space exploration must rely on unmanned vehicles. Therefore, a crash program aimed a placing a man into orbit at the earliest possible time cannot be justified solely on scientific or technical grounds. Indeed, it may hinder the development of our scientific and technical program.''

This argument continued in the wake of the 12 April 1961 launch of Yuri Gagarin, and in President Kennedy's proclamation to send an American to the Moon "within a

On 25 May 1961, US President John F. Kennedy delivered his Special Address to Congress on Urgent National Needs, committing the nation to a manned lunar landing by the end of the decade. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (left background) looks on.

decade'', science was not mentioned. In a memo for the vice president (Lyndon B. Johnson) dated 20 April 1961, Kennedy asked where America stood in space and whether a laboratory in space or a manned lunar flight could be achieved before the Soviets.

In his 28 April reply, Johnson, referring to CIA-provided intelligence estimates, stated that the Soviet Union had demonstrated the launch capability for placing a space laboratory in orbit and for placing payloads on the Moon. Based on their success at launching Gagarin ahead of the first American astronauts, their capacity for sending men to the Moon was plausible, but with extra effort, Americans could be the first to touch down on the lunar surface. The following day, Wernher von Braun sent a memo to Johnson, stating that America had an excellent chance of beating the Soviet Union to the Moon. However, he reasoned that the probability of the Soviets launching a space laboratory ahead of the Americans was strong, until the planned Saturn C-1 launch vehicle was debuted in 1964, at which point several astronauts could be launched into orbit simultaneously in an enlarged capsule "that could serve as a small 'laboratory' in space.''13

Less than a month later, the president made his historic, seminal speech before Congress, committing America to the Moon landing programme. The arms race that evolved into a space race had now clearly turned into a Moon race, and science on the Moon played no part in this massive undertaking. It was simply a race to get American astronauts there and back ahead of the Soviet Union, and the science would only follow once this primary goal had been achieved. As there was still so much to develop and understand about space flight beyond Project Mercury, the ensuing Gemini and early Apollo programmes leaned more towards test programmes than scientific explorations and this was reflected in the engineer, test and jet pilot candidates of the 1962 and 1963 NASA selections.

As plans for the lunar programme developed, ideas for future objectives in the civilian space programme began to emerge.14 Some of the major capabilities already existing or under development during the compilation of the Future Programs Task Group report (1964) included manned flight in Earth orbit for between one and two weeks (Gemini/Apollo Block I), manoeuvring and rendezvous (Gemini/Apollo Block II), and lunar orbit, landing and return (Apollo Block II). Additionally, NASA was looking at future applications involving Apollo-type hardware in Earth orbit for between one and two months; operations with crew in equilateral, polar and synchronised orbits; rendezvous inspection, repair and rescue; lunar mapping; and extended stays on the surface of the Moon of between three and fourteen days. All these fell under what became the Apollo Applications Program (known variously as Apollo A, Apollo X, Apollo AES, and AAP).15 In pursuit of these goals, a range of manned Earth-orbital experiments was proposed. This covered such fields as biosciences, physical sciences and astronomy/astrophysics. There were also Earth-orientated applications, including atmospheric science and technology, and communications. Support for space operations included advanced technology and subsystems, operational techniques and subsystems, and biomedical and behavioural investigations.

The long-term development that the agency was planning under manned space exploration programmes included conceptual take-off and landing of space vehicles (such as a reusable Space Shuttle) and flexible Earth-orbital operations. Other concepts included a large permanent space laboratory, roving lunar vehicles and the creation of research bases on the Moon, and manned planetary exploration.

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