A lunar spaceship

An LOR mission called for a spacecraft with at least two separate elements - a mothership that would remain in orbit around the Moon and a lander that would go down to the surface. To simplify reentry, NASA ultimately opted to use three distinct elements. The mothership would consist of two sections: a conical Command Module, in which the astronauts would spend most of the journey to and from the Moon; and a cylindrical Service Module that would contain equipment such as the rocket motors needed for manoeuvring in lunar orbit. For almost all of the mission, the two would be united and referred to as the Command and Service Module or CSM. The third element, the Lunar Excursion Module, usually known simply by the initials LM, was a separate spacecraft that would only ever have to fly in a vacuum and so rapidly evolved an ungainly, spider-like shape in which function overruled form.

As usual, NASA operated a contracting process that invited interested companies to bid for the manufacturing work. The contract for the CSM ultimately went to North American Aviation, while the LM was to be built by Grumman Aerospace. By 1966, the initial "Block 1" batch of CSMs was being readied for mounting on rockets and testing on the pad - but the Apollo programme was about to suffer a tragic setback.

THREE ROUTES TO THE MOON

The three pratical methods considered by NASA for reaching the Moon each required major technological advances.

module returns crew to Earth uppermost stage returns

three stages transfer to lunar orbit giant five-stage rocket launches from Earth one stage is shed in lunar I orbit two stages land on Moon with enough fuel for return uppermost stage returns to Earth orbit

lunar module separates for Moon landing upper stages transfer to lunar orbit spacecraft assembled in Earth orbit after two or more launches during landing, CSM remains in orbit

LM returns to lunar orbit, docking with CSM

CSM uses its engines for return to Earth

lunar module lands with minimal fuel three-part spacecraft transfers to lunar orbit single smaller rocket launches from Earth during landing, CSM remains in orbit three stages transfer to lunar orbit giant five-stage rocket launches from Earth lunar module separates for Moon landing upper stages transfer to lunar orbit spacecraft assembled in Earth orbit after two or more launches lunar module lands with minimal fuel three-part spacecraft transfers to lunar orbit single smaller rocket launches from Earth one stage is shed in lunar I orbit

THREE ROUTES TO THE MOON

The three pratical methods considered by NASA for reaching the Moon each required major technological advances.

LM returns to lunar orbit, docking with CSM

CSM uses its engines for return to Earth two stages land on Moon with enough fuel for return module returns crew to Earth uppermost stage returns uppermost stage returns to Earth orbit as in direct ascent, top stages land on Moon with fuel for return to Earth

DIRECT ASCENT (DA)

An enormous multi-stage rocket is launched directly towards the Moon. The upper two stages land upright on the lunar surface, still with enough fuel to transport the crew back to Earth.

EARTH ORBIT RENDEZVOUS (EOR)

A lunar spacecraft docks with a huge propellont tank already launched into orbit. The tank has fuel for the journey to the Moon, and the spacecraft touches down with enough fuel for its return.

LUNAR ORBIT RENDEZVOUS (LOR)

A three-stage rocket puts the spacecraft on course for the Moon. Once in lunar orbit, a lunar module descends to the surface while during landing, the CSM remains in orbit with fuel for return.

LOST CREW

In October 1966, the crew of the fated AS-204 (later known as Apollo 1) rehearsed procedures for their splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Pictured from left to right on the deck of the NASA's Motor Vessel Retriever are Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee.

BIOGRAPHY

GUS GRISSOM

FIRST LAUNCH

A huge S-l rocket stage is lifted to the launch pad during preparations for the first lounch of the Apollo programme in October 1961. Designated SA-1, this was one of a series of early tests of the clustered rocket.

BIOGRAPHY

GUS GRISSOM

Virgil "Gus" Grissom (1926-1967) was among the brightest and the best of NASA's original Mercury Seven astronauts. Born in Mitchell, Indiana, he studied engineering before joining the US Air Force. After seeing action in Korea, he was a test pilot prior to his selection for astronaut training. The sinking of the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule hung like a cloud over Grissom - several people argued that he had panicked and blown the capsule hatch himself. Despite the criticism, Grissom went on to command Gemini 3, and NASA continued to show its confidence in him with his selection for the first Apollo mission.

Apollos 1 to 6

Meeting the 1969 deadline for a Moon landing called for a breakneck development and testing programme, but Apollo was almost derailed by tragedy at its birth.

FIRST LAUNCH

A huge S-l rocket stage is lifted to the launch pad during preparations for the first lounch of the Apollo programme in October 1961. Designated SA-1, this was one of a series of early tests of the clustered rocket.

Even though the Saturn launcher had been in development for some time, launching a lunar mission by 1969 would be an enormous challenge. One thing was clear to Dr. George Mueller, NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight - the old philosophy of step-by-step rocket testing, altering just one component at a time between tests, would slow things down immeasurably.

Instead, Mueller opted for the bold approach of all-up testing - launching a complete spacecraft and studying how an entire system worked together. Even if a few repeats of certain missions proved necessary, this would drastically reduce the number of launches required during the testing process. Under the traditional system, it could have taken 20 launches of different Saturn V and Apollo elements to reach a manned lunar landing. Following Mueller's proposals, it might take as few as six Saturn Vs, preceded by a number of Saturn I and IB launches to test boilerplate capsules in Earth orbit.

The first elements of Apollo hardware to be ready for testing were the CSM and the Saturn IB launch vehicle. A manned launch of these components was planned for February 1967, and so it was that on

LOST CREW

In October 1966, the crew of the fated AS-204 (later known as Apollo 1) rehearsed procedures for their splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Pictured from left to right on the deck of the NASA's Motor Vessel Retriever are Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee.

27 January Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were sealed into the CSM on Launch Complex 34 at Kennedy Space Center for a mission simulation. (Shortly after John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, NASA's launch site had been named in his honour and Cape Canaveral itself also bore the Kennedy name until 1973.)

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