|Apollo 17 launch, 7 December 1972. Image credit: NASA.|
"The mission into geosynchronous orbit," Ehricke declared, would provide "additional return on America's investment in Apollo" by dramatizing "the usefulness of manned orbital activities." He added that his proposal, which he dubbed Destination Mankind, "would inspire many, as did the lunar missions before it, but in a different, perhaps more direct manner, because of its greater relevance to some of the most pressing problems of our time."
Ehricke's emphasis on practical benefits over lunar exploration reflected a significant shift in the public perception of spaceflight — one which had gained momentum throughout the 1960s. President Richard Nixon had articulated this shift in his "Statement About the Future of the United States Space Program" on 7 March 1970. The 37th President stated that he believed that the U.S. space program should proceed at a measured pace (not on "a crash timetable") and should be devoted to scientific exploration (mainly using interplanetary robots, but with man on Mars as a "longer-range goal").
In addition, NASA should emphasize international cooperation, cost reduction, and, crucially, "practical application — turning the lessons we learned in space to the early benefit of life on Earth." Nixon declared that results of space research should be "used to the maximum advantage of the human community." He listed among the practical applications of spaceflight "surveying crops, locating mineral deposits, and measuring water resources."
Ehricke described a representative 12-day Destination Mankind mission. Reaching GSO would require about as much propulsive energy as reaching lunar orbit, he noted. The three-stage Destination Mankind Apollo Saturn V rocket would lift off from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at about 8:30 p.m. local time. Following first and second stage operation, the S-IVB third stage would fire briefly to place itself, the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM), and a Payload Module (PM) into 100-nautical-mile parking orbit. Ehricke did not describe the PM design.
One orbital revolution (about 90 minutes) later, the S-IVB would ignite again to perform Transynchronous Injection (TSI). After S-IVB shutdown, the astronauts would separate their CSM and turn it 180° to dock with the PM, which would be attached to the top of the S-IVB in place of the Apollo Lunar Module (LM). They would then extract the PM, maneuver away from the S-IVB, and settle in for the 5.2-hour coast to GSO.
Ehricke emphasized the technology objectives of his Destination Mankind mission. He was particularly enamored of a solar illumination experiment that would see a circular reflector assembled by spacewalking astronauts. The experiment would provide reference data for design and operation of future space-based reflectors, he explained. He calculated that a 100-meter reflector in GSO could light Earth's surface one-tenth as brightly as a full Moon in a selected area. This level of illumination, though "subvisual," would be useful for night meteorology and surveillance of border and coastal areas, Ehricke wrote.
The astronauts would also erect "Manstar," a 500-to-700-foot-diameter reflective balloon visible over a wide area of Earth's surface as a modestly bright star. Ehricke called Manstar "a visible manifestation for all mankind of the potential value of space."
Ehricke called public relations "Public Exposure." Destination Mankind astronauts would become television stars. They would describe their Earth observations — "especially aspects useful and of interest to regional populations" — via TV broadcasts from GSO. Their spacewalks would also make for good TV fare, Ehricke judged.
|DSCOVR image of North America, South America, and Central America with adjacent oceans and seas. New Orleans, near the northern limit of the Destination Mankind Panamerican-Pacific Station, is located near the center of the image. Image credit: NASA.|
The CSM and PM would oscillate between 28.5° south (over the Pacific off northern Chile) and 28.5° north (over the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans), again reaching the southern limit at 10 a.m. local time and the northern limit at 10 p.m. local time. Equatorial crossing would occur above the Galapagos Islands. The astronauts would spend their time much as they did at the Afro-Eurasian Station, then would fire the SPS again to drift westward across the Pacific.
The Destination Mankind crew would return to Earth from the Australo-Asian Station. Using the SPS, they would perform a Trans-Earth Injection burn as their CSM crossed the equator near Sumatra moving north at 4 p.m. local time. Fall to Earth would last 5.2 hours, and splashdown would occur in the Pacific west of Hawaii at just after 6 a.m. local time.
"Destination Mankind: Proposal for a Saturn V - Apollo Mission into Geosynchronous Orbit," K. Ehricke, North American Rockwell, 10 May 1972.
The American Presidency Project, "Statement About the Future of the United States Space Program," Richard Nixon, 7 March 1970 (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=2903&st=Future+of+the+United+States+Space+Program&st1= — accessed 14 April 2017).
"A Continuing Aspect of Human Endeavor": Bellcomm's January 1968 Lunar Exploration Program
Apollo's End: NASA Cancels Apollo 15 & Apollo 19 to Save Station/Shuttle (1970)
A Bridge from Skylab to Station/Shuttle: Interim Space Station Program (1971)
Reviving & Reusing Skylab in the Shuttle Era: NASA Marshall's November 1977 Pitch to NASA Headquarters