One take on a 1963 Manned Mars Mission Concept

The Artist

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The mission concept first. (Thanks for the link, Scott.) https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19650076423 This was presented at the American Astronautical Society Symposium on the Exploration of Mars, Denver Colorado, June 6-7, 1963.

This concept art was in the S volume of the World Book Encyclopedia we had when I was growing up (mid-1960s) so I saw it quite a bit in my younger years. I got to thinking about this concept again not long ago and was surprised to find (at first) nothing on it in my web searches. Orionblamblam and Michael Van helped point me in the right direction - Thanks. The first hit on the art I was looking for was found here http://dreamsofspace.blogspot.com/2012/08/prudentials-guide-to-outer-space-future.html which has a lot of vintage space art on it. The rest of the images were found at these sites https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=45363.0 and

Scroll down to the heading "Mars Expedition Spacecraft."
and that second one looks like it will become a major timesink for me - lots of interesting information. Now that I have this concept art I might try doing a painting of this thing.

marsExpedition.jpg MarsExpedition2.jpg MarsExpedition3TB.jpg MarsExpedition4.jpg MarsExpedition5.jpg MarsExpedition6.jpg MarsExpedition7.jpg MarsExpedition8.jpg
 
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Archibald

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Hell of an ambitious project and vision, really. Those guys thought BIG and BOLD.

Unfortunately Mariner 4 1965 early atmospheric analyzis ruined many hopes...
 

edwest2

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This proposal owes much to the Saenger orbital bomber from World War II which former General Walter Dornberger suggested be developed further, and which resulted in Dyna-Soar (or the X-20). The US was also watching other developments, including "Saenger I, which started developed during the 1960s. German aerospace firm Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) produced concepts for its use as both a hypersonic passenger airliner and as a two-stage launch vehicle for deploying various payloads, including manned astronauts via the conceptual Horus (Horizontal Upper Stage) spaceplane, into orbit." This was also a continuation of wartime work.

A few issues with this concept:

1) The atomic engines. Enough shielding and distance? Power rating?
2) Ion engines? Supposedly not for high thrust, but I doubt that. And if operated at about the same thrust level as "atomic" engines, what would their ion source be?
 

The Artist

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Hell of an ambitious project and vision, really. Those guys thought BIG and BOLD.

Unfortunately Mariner 4 1965 early atmospheric analyzis ruined many hopes...

Someone in another thread said something like Mars was an exciting place full of potential until Mariner 4 ruined it.

I've been thinking about the visuals of this concept and I've come to think that to put these visuals in the correct context we should think of what came before this - The von Braun, Willy Ley, Colliers and Disney space program. Those articles - with Bonestell's paintings - and specials - with (then) top notch visuals from Disney Studios - were intended to sell the public on the idea of exploring space. And they succeeded. Looking at these visuals at this point in my life, I have to ask if these visuals were produced for public consumption as much as to illustrate a mission concept.

As a kid, I was drawn to this article because I thought that big triangle spacecraft looked cool. It suggests a delta-winged jet fighter or bomber. From this side of my life, I also see that it has some of the styling of a hood ornament. The question of the source of these illustrations was raised on that NASA spaceflight forum and the replies pointed to the 1963 presentation. I think the original question needs to be answered to put these image in true perspective. Were these illustrations produced for World Book to give a Colliers like flair to an article on a Mars Exploration proposal? Or, had any serious thought given to using that big wedge?

The answer will not matter much to me as I still think that big spaceship looks cool.
 

Archibald

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The atmospheric results from Mariner 4 actually ruined Mars TWICE.
- the thin atmosphere ruined hopes to find life.
- the thin atmosphere ruined also any hope for WINGED / LIFT reentry.
As you note all the 1950-1965 proposals had winged reentry vehicles that landed horizontally (Mars rocks and boulders ? what's the problem ?)
And then Mars atmosphere turned into the perfect worse combination of MOON and EARTH. Perdon the rude word, but Mars as far as EDL goes, is a b*tch.
- thin enough (like the Moon) to mandate propulsive braking, otherwise, you crash
- thick enough (like Earth) to mandate a heatshield, otherwise you burn
Also half of the planet if 2 miles higher than the lower one, and the difference is exactly the difference between a safe landing and a crash.
Funny thing: Mars atmosphere is just thin enough, even inflating a Viking parachute at mach 2, you go subsonic barely a handful of seconds before touching (or impacting) the ground. Plus see above.

I red once that all the landers from Viking 1 to MSL (not sure about the 2020 one) landed on the lower half of mars just to get the handful of seconds to achieve a proper landing. If they had tried to land on the higher half, even with a perfectly successfull deployement they might have impacted the ground instead of a smooth touchdown.

In the end landing on Mars is a collection of hardships, of coincidences that try to kill you.


That document is an excellent reading. It shows how tight the boundaries are, for present Mars landing systems. Prepare to desperate.
 

Archibald

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Hell of an ambitious project and vision, really. Those guys thought BIG and BOLD.

Unfortunately Mariner 4 1965 early atmospheric analyzis ruined many hopes...

Someone in another thread said something like Mars was an exciting place full of potential until Mariner 4 ruined it.

I've been thinking about the visuals of this concept and I've come to think that to put these visuals in the correct context we should think of what came before this - The von Braun, Willy Ley, Colliers and Disney space program. Those articles - with Bonestell's paintings - and specials - with (then) top notch visuals from Disney Studios - were intended to sell the public on the idea of exploring space. And they succeeded. Looking at these visuals at this point in my life, I have to ask if these visuals were produced for public consumption as much as to illustrate a mission concept.

As a kid, I was drawn to this article because I thought that big triangle spacecraft looked cool. It suggests a delta-winged jet fighter or bomber. From this side of my life, I also see that it has some of the styling of a hood ornament. The question of the source of these illustrations was raised on that NASA spaceflight forum and the replies pointed to the 1963 presentation. I think the original question needs to be answered to put these image in true perspective. Were these illustrations produced for World Book to give a Colliers like flair to an article on a Mars Exploration proposal? Or, had any serious thought given to using that big wedge?

The answer will not matter much to me as I still think that big spaceship looks cool.

That's why we need series like "For all Mankind". Fiction don't care about Mariner 4 atmospheric results ruining Von Braun designs.
I would happily suspend my disbelief watching a TV series with von Braun 1952 Collier Mars plans coming true in an alternate history.
 

blackstar

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The atmospheric results from Mariner 4 actually ruined Mars TWICE.
- the thin atmosphere ruined hopes to find life.
- the thin atmosphere ruined also any hope for WINGED / LIFT reentry.

You'd have to look it up (I'm too lazy to do so), but I think that Mariner 4 only confirmed what had recently been deduced from ground based telescopes.
 

RanulfC

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A few issues with this concept:

1) The atomic engines. Enough shielding and distance? Power rating?
2) Ion engines? Supposedly not for high thrust, but I doubt that. And if operated at about the same thrust level as "atomic" engines, what would their ion source be?

Grain of salt time :) that particular drawing is NOT official and IIRC was an 'artists' interpretation. Considering it has a huge window in the 'reentry module' I'm going to guess a HUGE amount of license was involved :) (Not to mention they are officially labeled 'tanks' in the main drawing :) )

I've been thinking about the visuals of this concept and I've come to think that to put these visuals in the correct context we should think of what came before this - The von Braun, Willy Ley, Colliers and Disney space program. Those articles - with Bonestell's paintings - and specials - with (then) top notch visuals from Disney Studios - were intended to sell the public on the idea of exploring space. And they succeeded. Looking at these visuals at this point in my life, I have to ask if these visuals were produced for public consumption as much as to illustrate a mission concept.

Yes since pumping public support was a requirement :)

I've come to think they are actually working somewhat better these days than when they first came out though.

As a kid, I was drawn to this article because I thought that big triangle spacecraft looked cool. It suggests a delta-winged jet fighter or bomber. From this side of my life, I also see that it has some of the styling of a hood ornament. The question of the source of these illustrations was raised on that NASA spaceflight forum and the replies pointed to the 1963 presentation. I think the original question needs to be answered to put these image in true perspective. Were these illustrations produced for World Book to give a Colliers like flair to an article on a Mars Exploration proposal? Or, had any serious thought given to using that big wedge?

Yes it's in the original report. They planned to use the 'wedge' as part of the aerobraking mission profile, which was and is still a valid choice. EDL, not so much but aerobraking would still work.

The answer will not matter much to me as I still think that big spaceship looks cool.

Thanks for posting it. It's nice to find that there were more than one FLEM based mission. (really, can we please change that name somehow? Time Travel maybe? :) )

Randy
 

RanulfC

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The atmospheric results from Mariner 4 actually ruined Mars TWICE.
- the thin atmosphere ruined hopes to find life.
- the thin atmosphere ruined also any hope for WINGED / LIFT reentry.

You'd have to look it up (I'm too lazy to do so), but I think that Mariner 4 only confirmed what had recently been deduced from ground based telescopes.

Not for aerobraking it didn't change all that much though which is what was planned. The EDL used a very high drag aerobrake on the capsule so that may have still worked.

Randy
 

edwest2

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A few issues with this concept:

1) The atomic engines. Enough shielding and distance? Power rating?
2) Ion engines? Supposedly not for high thrust, but I doubt that. And if operated at about the same thrust level as "atomic" engines, what would their ion source be?

Grain of salt time :) that particular drawing is NOT official and IIRC was an 'artists' interpretation. Considering it has a huge window in the 'reentry module' I'm going to guess a HUGE amount of license was involved :) (Not to mention they are officially labeled 'tanks' in the main drawing :) )

I've been thinking about the visuals of this concept and I've come to think that to put these visuals in the correct context we should think of what came before this - The von Braun, Willy Ley, Colliers and Disney space program. Those articles - with Bonestell's paintings - and specials - with (then) top notch visuals from Disney Studios - were intended to sell the public on the idea of exploring space. And they succeeded. Looking at these visuals at this point in my life, I have to ask if these visuals were produced for public consumption as much as to illustrate a mission concept.

Yes since pumping public support was a requirement :)

I've come to think they are actually working somewhat better these days than when they first came out though.

As a kid, I was drawn to this article because I thought that big triangle spacecraft looked cool. It suggests a delta-winged jet fighter or bomber. From this side of my life, I also see that it has some of the styling of a hood ornament. The question of the source of these illustrations was raised on that NASA spaceflight forum and the replies pointed to the 1963 presentation. I think the original question needs to be answered to put these image in true perspective. Were these illustrations produced for World Book to give a Colliers like flair to an article on a Mars Exploration proposal? Or, had any serious thought given to using that big wedge?

Yes it's in the original report. They planned to use the 'wedge' as part of the aerobraking mission profile, which was and is still a valid choice. EDL, not so much but aerobraking would still work.

The answer will not matter much to me as I still think that big spaceship looks cool.

Thanks for posting it. It's nice to find that there were more than one FLEM based mission. (really, can we please change that name somehow? Time Travel maybe? :) )

Randy



Really? Who approved this drawing? At the time, encyclopedias had to appear to be credible. Anyway, there were other atomic rocket projects. Guessing doesn't count. :)

And by the way, the public wasn't that stupid.
 

RanulfC

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Really? Who approved this drawing? At the time, encyclopedias had to appear to be credible. Anyway, there were other atomic rocket projects. Guessing doesn't count. :)

I don't think the one with those references was from the enclopedia, but a general use 'art' type thing. :)

And by the way, the public wasn't that stupid.

You've met the public, right? :D

There's some really odd 'interpretations' out there of a lot of those early concepts. If I can find it one of the Convair designs had itself redone with rocket flames coming out of the habitat modules and windows in the reactor section :)

You had to know the original concept to think it odd though because it LOOKED right :)

Randy
 

edwest2

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Hoo boy. An an assistant art director, I sure know 'what looks right.' The design part of me also knows what looks right. Convair? OK. If you say so. Now that a few things are out in the open, the 'oh, it just looked that way' argument doesn't fly.
 

RanulfC

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I was wrong, it was a Lewis Research Center design for a nuclear electric ship:
Lewis Nuclear Electiric Ship model.jpg

Which worked like this:
Lewis Nuclear Electiric Ship plan.jpg

And was redone for popular release as this:
Lewis Nuclear Electiric Ship artl.jpg

Randy
 

The Artist

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I have not made it a secret that I come to this group from the arts side of things. I do know the difference between fact and fiction and my saying that this design looks cool is from my 'I want to do a painting of this' approach to this concept.

Now. To address RanulfC's images. I'm sure the color illustration is not an official NASA drawing. It is either from a PR firm under contract to NASA, or from what ever company produced the publication this appeared in. While there are some artists who specialize in aerospace and they understand what they are being asked to illustrate, most commercial artists may have no idea what they are illustrating (beyond what was included in the brief). Another force acting upon the artist is editorial. The art director and the editor of the overall project are calling the shots. The editor is likely seeking images that will appeal to what their intended audience 'knows' about the subject, and what they 'knew' was informed by the science fiction movies and shorts of that time. The public saw space ships as finned tailsitters that trailed flame while they moved through space. Even if the artist had a clue, it was the editor who called the shots.

While many members here shake their heads in seeing what is wrong with the illustrations, I feel that these public consumption images are worth documenting as part of the history of a concept.
 

royabulgaf

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Yeah, the views or Mars were different in the 50s and 60s when I was a kid. It was assumed by all that Mars had some form of life. Altheough astronomers realized the canals were an optical illusion by 1909, it was still popular in fiction. Were there no martian canals or the illusion of green areas in the Martian summer, interest in exploring Mars would be far less. Even today, there is still a lot of grasping at straws when some very doubtful evidence of life occurs.
 

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