Encyclopedia Astronautica
1961.04.20 - Prospector vs Apollo program


A conference was held at NASA Headquarters on the relationship between the Prospector and Apollo programs. Representatives of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and STG discussed the possible redirection of Prospector planning to support more directly the manned space program. The Prospector spacecraft was intended to soft-land about 2,500 pounds on the lunar surface with an accuracy of +/-1 kilometer anywhere on the visible side of the moon. An essential feature of Prospector was the development of an automatic roving vehicle weighing about 1500 pounds which would permit detailed reconnaissance of the lunar surface over a wide area.

STG representatives felt that the most useful feature of the Prospector program lay in its planned ability to soft-land cargo in close proximity to a desired site. Many applications could be foreseen, such as the deposit of landing aids and essential material in support of a manned lunar landing or in continuing support for a manned lunar expedition. However, the Prospector roving vehicle seemed to be a much more complicated and heavier piece of hardware than a manned lunar transport and, for that reason, STG did not support its development. The planning for Prospector involved JPL in-house studies concerning closer integration with manned space flight requirements, definitive decisions on the program within several months, a contractor's study in Fiscal Year 1962, engineering design in Fiscal Year 1963, and a hardware contract at a future date. Future Prospector planning would emphasize its cargo-carrying ability as a prime requirement, JPL representatives stated.

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