Encyclopedia Astronautica
Manned Circumlunar


Boosting a manned spacecraft on a loop around the moon, without entering lunar orbit, allows a trip to be made near the moon with a total low earth orbit mass of as little as 20 tonnes. This was attractive during the space race as a manned mission that could be accomplished early with limited booster power. Gemini, Apollo, and Soyuz were all supposed to have made circumlunar flights. Only Soyuz reached the circumlunar flight-test stage under the L1 program. Any L1 manned missions were cancelled after the Americans reached lunar orbit with Apollo 8. The idea was resurrected in 2005 when a $100 million commercial flight around the moon was proposed, again using Soyuz.

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Associated Spacecraft
  • L1-1960 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1960. Circumlunar manned spacecraft proposed by Korolev in January 1960. The L1 would a man on a loop around the moon and back to earth by 1964. More...
  • LK-1 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Cancelled 1965. The LK-1 was the spacecraft designed by Chelomei for the original Soviet manned lunar flyby project. More...
  • Apollo A American manned space station. Study 1961. Apollo A was a lighter-weight July 1961 version of the Apollo spacecraft. More...
  • Soyuz A Russian manned spacecraft. Study 1962. The 7K Soyuz spacecraft was initially designed for rendezvous and docking operations in near earth orbit, leading to piloted circumlunar flight. More...
  • L1-1962 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1962. Early design that would lead to Soyuz. A Vostok-Zh manned tug would assemble rocket stages in orbit. It would then return, and a Soyuz L1 would dock with the rocket stack and be propelled toward the moon. More...
  • Gemini-Centaur American manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1962. In the first Gemini project plans, it was planned that after a series of test dockings between Gemini and Agena rocket stages, Geminis would dock with Centaur stages for circumlunar flights. More...
  • Gemini - Saturn I American manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 1964. In the spring of 1964, with manned Apollo flights using the Saturn I having been cancelled, use of a Saturn I to launch a Gemini around the moon was studied. More...
  • Gemini - Double Transtage American manned lunar orbiter. Study 1965. In June 1965 astronaut Pete Conrad conspired with the Martin and McDonnell corporations to advocate an early circumlunar flight using Gemini. More...
  • Soyuz 7K-L1 Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. 12 launches, 1967.03.10 (Cosmos 146) to 1970.10.20 (Zond 8). The Soyuz 7K-L1, a modification of the Soyuz 7K-OK, was designed for manned circumlunar missions. More...
  • DSE-Alpha Russian manned lunar flyby spacecraft. Study 2005. Potential commercial circumlunar manned flights were offered in 2005, using a modified Soyuz spacecraft docked to a Block DM upper stage. More...
  • Shenzhou Circumlunar Chinese manned lunar flyby spacecraft. In January and February 2003 Chinese sources began discussing plans for a Chinese manned circumlunar mission by 2008. Nothing came of these plans. More...

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