Encyclopedia Astronautica
1958.04.25 - US Air Force manned military space systems program


The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division published the first development plan for an Air Force manned military space systems program. The objective was to "achieve an early capability to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth." The program called for the start of a high priority effort (similar to that enjoyed by ballistic missiles), characterized by "concurrency" and single Air Force agency management. The complete program would be carried out in four phases: first, "Man-in-Space Soonest"; second, "Man-in-Space Sophisticated"; third, "Lunar Reconnaissance," exploring the moon by television camera and by a soft landing of an instrumented package on the moon's surface; and finally, "Manned Lunar Landing and Return," which would first test equipment by circumlunar flights returning to earth with instrumented capsules containing animals.

At this stage of project development, the payload capacity would be increased to 9,000 pounds. The spacecraft would then undertake a full-scale flight to the moon and safe return with an animal passenger. The climax would be a manned lunar landing, brief surface exploration, and return. This would be followed by other flights to explore the lunar surface thoroughly and gather additional data. The program was scheduled for completion in December 1965 at a cost of $1.5 billion.

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