THE SPACE EDUCATORS' HANDBOOK

SCIENCE FICTION TO SCIENCE FACT EXHIBIT

GALLERY OF WERNHER VON BRAUN MOONSHIP SKETCHES

The sketch to the lower left is von Braun's diagram of the Round Trip Ship. At the lower right is the artist's rendering of the vehicle as it appeared on the October 18, 1952 issue of COLLIER'S which featured the article: MAN ON THE MOON.

VON BRAUN MOONSHIP COLLIER'S COVER OF VON BRAUN
MOONSHIP

DISCUSSION

The Wernher von Braun moonship of the 1950s is enormous compared to the lunar lander Eagle which placed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon's surface on July 20, 1969. Von Braun's lunar spacecraft is 160 feet long which is nine feet more than the elevation of the Statue of Liberty. Its width is 110 feet. Rather than the two rocket motors used by the Apollo astronauts (one for descent and one for ascent), the 1950s craft has 30 rocket motors. The bank of engines is topped by the habitation sphere for a crew of scientists, technicians, and others. Beneath the sphere are a pair of extended arms upon a circular track so that they may rotate 360 degrees. These light mass arms are deployed against the vehicle in the same manner as the Apollo lunar rovers were stowed against the lunar lander. These booms are stowed during lift-off and landing on the Moon's surface to avoid damage. Attached to each are respectively, a radio antenna dish and a solar mirror used to generate power.

Beneath the two boom arms of the passenger sphere are drapped eighteen (Yes, 18! propellant tanks.) These carry nearly 800,000 gallons of hydrazine (the fuel) and oxygen-rich nitric acid (the combustion agent). Four of these 18 tanks are outsized spheres nearly 33 feet in diameter. Attachment is to the outside of the moon vehicle's structure. These four tanks hold more than half of the propellant supply (580,000 gallons) for launch from the Earth orbiting space station. After use of the propellant on take-off, these large tanks are jettisoned.

The concept requires the remaining cyclindrical tanks for the lunar landing retro burn, the lunar ascent burn, and the retro burn for docking with the Earth orbiting space station. Incidentally, the vehicle uses no reaction control thrusters. Attitude control is done with massive spinning wheels known as "control moment gyros." This primitive guidance method was never employed in the American manned space program.


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Last modified: Wednesday, 30-Nov-04 09:15:00 PM CDT

Author: Jerry Woodfill / NASA, Mail Code ER7, jared.woodfill1@jsc.nasa.gov

Curator: Cecilia Breigh, NASA JSC ER7

Responsible Official: Andre Sylvester, NASA JSC ER7

Automation, Robotics and Simulation Division, Walter W. Guy, Chief.

Picture of the logo of NASA Johnson Space Center's Automation, Robotics, and 
Simulation Division.  The logo depicts a robot extended arm and hand.  The robotic 
hand holds Mars in its grasp.