Brief History of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center's Lunar Mobility Program.

Prior to the transfer of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency's von Braun Rocket Research and Development team to NASA, studies were being conducted by the Army whose objectives were to establish a manned lunar outpost on the Moon. This study was authorized by a letter dated 20 March 1959 from the Chief of Research and Development, Department of the Army to Chief of Ordnance. The responsibility for the study was assigned to the Commanding General, Army Ordnance Missile Command. Major General John B. Medaris. The study was "Project Horizon" and its purpose was to develop a manned lunar base for observing the earth since military, political, and scientific indicated that it was imperative for the United States to establish a lunar outpost at the earliest practical date. The Moon was "the High Ground" as the military has always refereed to is that the person that controls the high ground controls the battlefield. This study consisted of Volume I Summary, Volume II Technical considerations, Volume III Operational Aspects, and Volume IV Technical Services Capabilities and Support. The development program was not approved after the completion of the study. Results from this initial study lead to the development of a number of vehicle concepts as the Juno 1, a one million pound thrust booster, which used initially the concept of 8 Redstone missile fuel and oxidizer tanks clustered around a single Jupiter stage as a first stage with the additional upper stages. The clustered concept was developed because it was faster, cheaper, and did not require special large scale fabrication techniques that were required to build a single tank first stage.

The Juno was renamed the Saturn in October 1958 as per Werner von Braun's suggestion. Advanced Research Projects Agency( ARPA) approved the name change in February 1959 and the Saturn development began. Also studied were the best methods to develop trajectories that could successfully fly the hardware and men to the moon These initial studies were conducted by the Advanced Projects Office and the Aeroballistic Laboratory personnel prior to the ABMA team being transfered to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in July 1,1960.

In the beginning the original planned Apollo Program was an initial reconnaissance of the moon followed by more extensive exploration of the moon and experimentation in lunar and earth orbit. The second phase was to use the Apollo spacecraft system as a basis, with the added capability of additional vehicles and instrumentation. Dr. von Braun around 1962 proposed that MSFC develop studies for an Apollo Logistic Support System and the NASA Headquarters Advanced Manned Mission Group directed by Tom Evans in 1963 selected MSFC began these studies. During early 1964 these studies were reorganized under the Apollo Extension System (AES) and were to develop lunar surface, lunar orbit, and earth orbit missions lasting up to 120 days. These studies were managed first by the Advanced Manned Missions Office at MSFC with Joseph de Fries, its director and his staff of engineers of the MFSC's Aero-Astrodynamics Laboratory with other Offices and the Research Projects Division at Marshall contributing to the study. The final report consisted of a 10 volume report, The Lunar Logistic System. Later the name of the studies was changed to Apollo Logistics System Studies. From these studies the concept of a large lunar Mobile Laboratory emerged. This manned pressurized laboratory would be transported to the lunar surface by a single Saturn V vehicle prior to sending men on a second Saturn V to the surface of the moon. However due to the performance of the early design of the Saturn V and the design of the optimum trajectory to get to the moon was still under study the delivery of the MOLAB by a second Saturn V was abandoned The previous MOBAB studies had envisioned a large lunar roving vehicle so MSFC requested contractors that were interested to propose their concept for Mobility Test Articles (MTA's). These vehicles were to be used to study mobility and human factors for future operations on the Moon. General Motors, Bendix / Lockheed and Grumman submitted their concepts. Bendix and General Motors were finally selected to design and deliver their MTA's. Herbert Schaefer at MSFC was the manager for this program.

The importance of training has been realized since the inception of manned aircraft flight and or space flight. From the early days of the space program it was usual for "pilots" to operate a simulator of the hardware that he would be using when he was training for his space flight. This training would give him a feel of how the hardware would operate in space. Thus, even before the astronaut was sent into space he would be able to perform his required space tasks since he had completed many space flight simulations. This training allows the astronauts to be able to operate his spacecraft, simulate deployment of scientific instruments or other hardware successfully with high confidence.

During early 1966 two engineers from Marshall Space Flight Center spent 18 days, one hour, and 40 minutes in a simulated Lunar Shelter-Vehicle which had a free living space and working space of 155 cubit feet. The purpose of the simulation was to evaluated the cew perfoemance during a 2-3 week in a comfined space of a lunar vehicle concept and then to conduct scientific that might be performed by a crew on the lunar surfac.

During the late 1960s, a moving base visual simulator was developed by the Simulation Branch of the Computation Laboratory at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and other Center Laboratory personnel participating in the development of lunar roving vehicle concepts prior to selecting a potential LRV design. This simulator was designed to be used in conjunction with the MSFC MOLAB concept, the Bendix / Lockheed Corporation's concept and later the Boeing Company concept for lunar roving vehicle designs. The system was designed to present the driver with a reasonably accurate simulation of driving on the lunar terrain. The basis of the simulator was a U.S. Air Force SMK-23 flight simulator. When the design direction for the lunar roving vehicle moved away from the large pressurized vehicles to the open, un-pressurized concepts, the simulator and software was modified to integrate the new human factors involved in the scaled-down lunar roving vehicle and the astronauts could now experience driving on the moon and experience the ride characteristics of the proposed LRV concept. The motion and dynamics were now provided by a Lear Singer six degree of motion system mated with the SMK-23 simulator.

While the human factor studies was being studied the MTA vehicles concepts were tested here at Marshall, at the Army's Aberdeen Proving, and later in June 1967 at the US Army's Yuma Proving ground Some areas in the test ranges were considered to be good representation of what the lunar surface might be like. Some of the test areas were composed of fine grained sandy areas with no obstacles and there were other areas that were littered with various sorts of rocky like debris that simulated the debris thrown out from the craters on the moon.

In addition in 1967 a series of test flights of 1/6th gravity parabolas were flown using the USAF's KC-135A. A motorized small lunar rover concept built by Brown Engineering was the vehicle that was flown and these flights established that a very soft suspension and wheel system combination would be required for the smaller vehicle to operate successfully on the moon. Later a special container that covered a wheel, its drive mechanism, and suspension was also flown in the 1/6 th gravity parabolas. During these flights the moving wheel as it traveled across a lunar soil simmulant showed that the rover must have fenders to mitigate the transfer of the dust, that was being picked up inside the wheel, from impinging on the astronauts and their vehicle. Return to LRV Picture