Encyclopedia Astronautica
1956 Von Braun Landing Boat

1956 vB Landing Boat
1956 Von Braun Landing Boat
Credit: © Mark Wade
American manned Mars lander. Study 1956. The 1956 modification of Von Braun's Landing Boat design was reduced in mass by 12%, and the wingspan by 10%.

The profile was the same, except that the ascent stage was only half the size to take the crew of 9 back to Mars orbit (as opposed to 25 in the original design). This allowed a much larger net payload to be landed on the surface, necessary since this was a single-ship mission. The enormous glider would land on Mars horizontally on skids at a location judged to be flat enough from orbital survey. The forward part of the fuselage, which formed the ascent stage, would be winched vertically for the return to the mother ships in Mars orbit after 400 days on the surface.

Since there was no back-up to the passenger ship, and quarters were cramped there, three crew members would stay aboard the cut-rate Landing Boat during the coast from earth to mars. This Landing Boat design was equipped with five rocket engines. They would fire first to deorbit the glider from the 1000 km altitude orbit of the Cargo Ship which had conveyed it to Mars. The descent profile was the same as that calculated in 1948. 9 of the expedition's 12 crew would be sent to the surface on the landing boat. After raising the forward part of the fuselage - the ascent stage - to a vertical position in case of the need for an emergency return, they would set up their Mars base. Payload included 17 metric tons of consumables and 32 metric tons of equipment, including a tractor with pressurized quarters for extended surveys of the surface, a 6-m diameter inflatable pressurized tent for surface quarters, and scientific equipment.

At the appropriate time, the crew would lift-off in the ascent vehicle and rendezvous with the seven passenger ships in orbit. The ascent stage would have a launch mass of 69 metric tons, half that of the original design. The burn into an elliptical transfer orbit and the circularization burn near the passenger ship would require 56.4 metric tons of propellant. Transfer of the 9 astronauts and 2.5 metric tons of material returned from the surface would be done between the ascent vehicle and the passenger ship using the Passenger Ship's 3.5 metric ton space boat. The ascent stage, abandoned in Mars orbit, would have an empty mass of 12.5 metric tons.


Crew Size: 9. Spacecraft delta v: 4,100 m/s (13,400 ft/sec).

Gross mass: 161,000 kg (354,000 lb).
Unfuelled mass: 104,600 kg (230,600 lb).
Payload: 49,000 kg (108,000 lb).
Height: 22.00 m (72.00 ft).
Diameter: 4.10 m (13.40 ft).
Span: 137.00 m (449.00 ft).
Thrust: 1,470.00 kN (330,460 lbf).
Specific impulse: 297 s.

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Associated Countries
Associated Spacecraft
  • Von Braun Mars Expedition - 1956 American manned Mars expedition. Study 1956. Von Braun's Mars expedition presented in the 1956 book he co-authored with Willy Ley, The Exploration of Mars, was vastly reduced in scope from the 1952 version. More...

See also
Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Von Braun American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Von Braun, USA. More...

Associated Propellants
  • Nitric acid/Hydrazine Drawing on the German World War II Wasserfall rocket, nitric acid (HNO3) became the early storable oxidiser of choice for missiles and upper stages of the 1950's. To overcome various problems with its use, it was necessary to combine the nitric acid with N2O4 and passivation compounds. These formulae were considered extremely secret at the time. By the late 1950's it was apparent that N2O4 by itself was a better oxidiser. Therefore nitric acid was almost entirely replaced by pure N2O4 in storable liquid fuel rocket engines developed after 1960. Hydrazine (N2H4) found early use as a fuel, but it was quickly replaced by UDMH. It is still used as a monopropellant for satellite station-keeping motors. More...

  • Miller, Ron, The Dream Machines, Krieger, Malabar, Florida, 1993.
  • Portree, David S. F., Humans to Mars: Fifty Years of Mission Planning, 1950 - 2000, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History Series, Number 21, February 2001.

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