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Mars Project
Moon Project

PICTURES OF THE WEEK: Top image, from 1952, cover for The Mars Project by Dr. Wernher von Braun. The book had been written in 1948 as a science fiction novel describing a manned mission to Mars -- with von Braun basing his story on comprehensive engineering diagrams and calculations, which he included as an appendix to the manuscript. The novel was rejected by multiple publishers, but the appendix formed the basis of a lecture given by von Braun at the First Symposium on Spaceflight held at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City in 1951. The next year von Braun's diagrams and calculations for manned flight to Mars -- taken directly from the appendix of the rejected novel -- were published in a special edition of the German space flight journal Weltraumfahrt, and later in 1952 in hardback by Umschau Verlag in West Germany as Das Marsprojekt. It was translated into English by Henry J. White and published in the United States in 1953 by the University of Illinois Press as The Mars Project. From Encyclopedia Astronautica...

Von Braun envisioned not a simple preliminary voyage to Mars, but an enormous scientific expedition modeled on the Antarctic model. His Mars expedition was to consist of 70 crew members aboard ten spacecraft - each spacecraft with a mass of 3720 metric tons! To assemble this armada in earth orbit, Von Braun proposed a fully recoverable, reusable three-stage launch vehicle, which was designed to deliver 25 metric tons of cargo plus 14.5 metric tons of 'excess propellant' for the Mars fleet with each launch. Assembly of the expedition would take 950 launches of 46 these reusable space shuttles over eight months from a very busy base at Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. The first and second stages would splash down under parachutes 304 and 1459 km downrange, then be towed back to the launch site by a tug. The winged third stage, after dumping its cargo at the assembly point and pumping its excess propellants to the Mars ships, would glide to a landing on Johnston Island. All three stages would be refurbished at the island, stacked, and reused.

The expedition would use minimum-energy Hohmann trajectories to Mars and return, requiring a long stay at Mars, which was certainly appropriate for an expedition of this scale. The expedition fleet would consist of seven passenger ships and three cargo ships, all of the same starting mass. The passenger ships were equipped with 20-m-diameter habitation spheres for ten men per ship, and an extra 356.5 metric tons of propellant for the return trip home. The three unmanned cargo ships would each carry a 200-metric ton winged lander and 195-metric tons of reserve supplies to Mars orbit, and then be left there. There was no thought of automated precursor missions in the days before solid-state electronics.

The proposed passenger and cargo spacecraft -- all assembled in orbit -- would be repurposed as a proposed manned mission to Earth's moon as part of a Colliers magazine series entitled Man Will Conquer Space Soon!. The series ran from March, 1952, through April, 1954. The image above was an illustration from October, 1952. From False Steps: The Space Race As It Might Have Been...

Two of the "passenger" version would have carried a total of 50 scientists and technicians between them, while the "cargo" version would have been on a one-way trip to the Moon carrying the supplies the 50 men (and the title of the series leaves little doubt that it would have been only men) would need for a six-week stay on Earth's nearest neighbour. Their goal would have been the Sinus Roris near the Moon's North Pole -- and later used by Arthur C. Clarke as the setting of his A Fall of Moondust, in all likelihood because of its mention in this article.

The ships are 160 feet tall, which is to say just about the same height as the entire Space Shuttle stack. They were to have burned nitric acid and hydrazine, which was quite prescient on the part of Dr. von Braun as that's one of the three most popular rocket fuel combinations (along with LOX/LH2 and LOX/Kerosene) down to the modern day. Less prescient is its mercury-vapour powered turbine, which uses the parabolically concentrated light from the Sun to evaporate liquid mercury and generate 35 kilowatts. They were the hot new thing in 1952, but fell out of favour not long after. So far as I know there's never been one in space.

Naturally on arriving at the Moon, the astronauts would set about building a Moon base using the cargo they brought as well as the one ship that brought it. From there von Braun confidently predicted that it would not be too much longer before the first manned trip to Mars ensued.

This week at Saturday Night Uforia:
In The News PicIn The News 1952

PART FIFTY-EIGHT -- Chronicling the most exciting year in UFO history. Accounts, opinion and analysis for 1952 as told through the newspaper and magazine articles of the time.

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Paul Drye's fascinating project blog for a history book of the same name which examines the alternate proposals and plans for space travel stretching from 1930s to the present.

Coming 04:19:14
News ClipIn The News 1952

PART FIFTY-NINE Chronicling the most exciting year in UFO history. Accounts, opinion and analysis for 1952 as told through the newspaper and magazine articles of the time.

Coming 04:26:14 - 05:03:14
News ClipSpotlight 1952: Hiding In Plain Sight

After the hundreds of witness reports and the plethora of scientific retort that made 1952 the preeminent "year of the saucer", is there any one truth to be found?

Coming 05:10:14
News ClipSpotlight 1952: Anatomy of a Hoax

PART TWELVE -- All successful hoaxes have had certain elements in common, starting with the hoaxster's ability to beguile and deceive. But the most important factor of all may be the need to believe.

Coming 05:17:14
News ClipTo Be Announced

The argument goes something like this: 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.' ‡ 'But,' says Man, 'the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED.' ‡ 'Oh dear,' says God, 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

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