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AES Lunar Base

ALSS Lunar Base

ALSS Lunar Base
Apollo Lunar Support Systems Base Elements
Credit: © Mark Wade

American manned lunar base. Cancelled 1968. AES (Apollo Extension Systems) was planned as the first American lunar base. It would involve minimal modification of Apollo hardware. The Apollo CSM would be modified for long duration lunar orbit storage.

AKA: Apollo Extension Systems. Status: Cancelled 1968.

Two versions of the Apollo LM would be developed: the LM Taxi, and the LM Shelter. Surface mobility would be provided by an open cab lunar rover within the 2050 kg lunar surface payload capability of the LM Shelter. This preliminary base would require two Saturn V launches to allow two astronauts to explore the vicinity of their LM Shelter over a two week period. Development was actually begun in May 1966 with plans for a first mission in March 1970. But subsequent cutbacks and then cancellation of further Saturn V production led to the project being completely abandoned in June 1968.

The AES flights would also require several new elements:

In the AES scenario the LM Shelter would be delivered by a Saturn V launch sending a manned Apollo CSM and the LM Shelter towards the moon. As in a standard Apollo flight, the CSM would transpose and dock with the LM Shelter, and then pull it away from the S-IVB stage. After the CSM had braked the combination into lunar orbit, the automated LM Shelter would separate. The crew would merely orbit above the moon in the CSM until the automated LM Shelter had landed, and then return to Earth. A second Saturn V launch, using an Extended CSM and a LM Taxi, would transport a crew to the LM Shelter. Because of the expected interval between first and second landings, the LM Shelter would have to be given a 90-day quiescent capability. The second flight would land two of the crew using the LM Taxi while the 30-day CSM waited with a single astronaut in lunar orbit. After landing, the crew would shut down the LM Taxi and activate the shelter system. Two weeks later, the LM Taxi would be reactivated and the crew would return to the CSM and back to Earth.

Mission duration could be doubled by modifying the S-IVB third stage of the Saturn V for operation in lunar space and by providing a 40-day quiescent capability for an unmanned CSM in lunar orbit. This would allow all three astronauts to be landed on the Moon for a 30-day stay time.

As the Viet Nam War and public indifference cut into NASA budgets, these plans were continuously cut-back. This can be seen in the number of Saturn V launches allocated by NASA for Apollo Applications Program lunar activities:

Evolution to a lunar base would have gone from the basic Apollo hardware to AES (Apollo Extension Systems) to ALSS (Apollo Logistics Support System using the LEM Truck), and then LESA (Lunar Exploration System for Apollo). The end result would be ever-expanding permanent stations on the moon.

A typical vision of post-Apollo lunar exploration consisted of the following phases:

In a comparison lf lunar base approaches, the basic Apollo hardware scenario for thorough exploration of a single location would consist of a single manned lunar reconnaissance landing of the selected base site, followed by six Apollo launches over the next six quarters - total, 14 man-days on the moon for 7 Saturn V launches. The AES or ALSS approach would follow the single reconnaissance flight by three pairs of cargo landings and manned landings, resulting in a total of 86 man-days on the moon for the same number of Saturn V launches. The LESA approach, with a cargo lander followed by two manned landings in sequence to the same large shelter and rover, would allow 542 man-days on the moon. ALSS development would cost around $500 million, and LESA cost $1.45 billion. In terms of cost per man-day on the moon, either approach would pay off on the very first mission.

Crew Size: 2.

Family: Lunar Bases, Moon. Country: USA. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM, Apollo LM Shelter, Apollo LM Taxi, LSSM, MOBEV F2B. Launch Vehicles: Saturn V.
Photo Gallery

Apollo Lunar BaseApollo Lunar Base
Credit: NASA

1967 May 24 - .
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