29 October 2017

Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule (1965)

Chrysler-built Saturn IB first stages in the final phase of assembly at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, November 1967. The clustered Redstone rocket bodies are most obvious on the stage at far left. Image credit: NASA
In the 1960s, the Chrysler Corporation, an automobile company founded in 1925, manufactured the first stage of the Saturn IB, the first and last member of the Saturn rocket family to launch astronauts into space. After four successful unmanned test flights beginning in February 1966, Saturn IBs launched the Apollo 7 Command and Service Module (CSM), the first Apollo spacecraft to carry a crew (11-22 October 1968); the three CSMs that ferried crews to and from Skylab, the first U.S. space station (May 1973-February 1974); and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) CSM and the Docking Module its crew used to link up with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in Earth orbit (15-24 July 1975). The ASTP CSM was the last Apollo spacecraft to fly.

That Chrysler built the Saturn IB first stage should not be surprising. The company's Missile Division built intermediate-range Redstone missiles for the U.S. Army starting in 1950; the first flew in 1953. An upgraded Redstone, the Jupiter, served both as a missile and a space launcher. A modified Jupiter launched Explorer 1, the first U.S. Earth satellite, on 31 January 1958. Safety-enhanced Redstones launched suborbital Mercury spacecraft containing Alan Shepard, the first American in space (5 May 1961), and Virgil Grissom (21 July 1961).

The first Saturn I rocket lifts off, 27 October 1961. For this suborbital test of the Chrysler-built S-I first stage, the rocket carried a dummy S-IV second stage. Image credit: NASA
Redstone and its derivatives prepared Chrysler for its contributions to the 162-foot-tall Saturn I, which can reasonably be described as NASA's rocket for learning how to fly big rockets. Saturn I flew 10 times between October 1961 and July 1965. Chrysler's Saturn I first stage included eight Redstone rocket bodies clustered around a central Jupiter rocket body. The Jupiter and four Redstones were filled with liquid oxygen; the remaining four Redstones held RP-1 aviation fuel. Chrysler's Saturn IB first stage followed an identical pattern.

The last three Saturn I rockets each launched a Pegasus meteoroid-detection satellite, the first active payloads launched on a Saturn rocket. Pegasus 1 reached orbit in February 1965, Pegasus 2 in May 1965, and Pegasus 3 in July 1965. The Pegasus series was crucial for understanding the threat micrometeoroids posed to spacecraft and astronauts.

Shortly after Pegasus 1 reached space, at the Second Space Congress in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Chrysler engineers R. Dutzmann and E. Dunford described a small free-flying capsule for performing work outside spacecraft and space stations. They presented their paper in April 1965 during the six-week period that separated humankind's first spacewalk by Alexei Leonov (Voskhod 2, 18 March 1965) from the first U.S. spacewalk by Ed White (Gemini IV, 3 May 1965).

Dutzmann and Dunford's capsule design arose from a perceived need for new methods of protecting spacewalking astronauts - methods that would enhance protection but not compromise the ability to perform work. The Chrysler engineers explained, for example, that planned nylon fabric space suits might shield an astronaut from meteoroids if a coverall made of woven aluminum wire were added; the coverall would, however, make astronaut movement difficult.

Meteoroids were only one possible hazard of walking in space. Dutzmann and Dunford noted that objects in space have no weight, but retain their mass. They feared that a massive object - for example, a rocket stage - inadvertently set in motion might catch an astronaut unawares and crush him against another massive object.

The Chrysler engineers wrote that NASA planned to use a pure oxygen atmosphere at a pressure of 3.5 pounds per square inch (psi) inside its spacecraft and space suits. Experiments had shown that, should a space suit develop a leak, the astronaut would experience oxygen starvation if the pressure fell by just 0.8 psi. Increasing the flow of oxygen into the suit might keep pressure above the 2.7-psi critical level long enough for him to reach safety, but only if the suit perforation were small.

In addition, they noted that a space-suited astronaut would have no place to keep his tools. Attaching tools to the astronaut would impede movement.

The Chrysler engineers offered a brief assessment of past proposals for heavy (up to 2.5-ton) "taxis" that would include "comfortized" pressurized cockpits and mechanical manipulator arms. Such "luxuries," they wrote, could not realistically play a role in space operations before the 1970s. The technological leap required to move from a basic fabric space suit to a complex work vehicle was too great; also, tests had shown that existing mechanical manipulators were up to four times less efficient for doing work than astronaut arms and hands.

Side view of the interior of Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule with astronaut positions indicated. A = outline of astronaut position with capsule doors closed; B = outline of astronaut position at work site with capsule doors open. Work site attachment arms are shown in black outline in closed-door (retracted) position and in red in open-door (extended) position. Image credit: Chrysler Corporation/DSFPortree
Top view of the interior of Chrysler's Transportation and Work Station Capsule. A1 = left sliding door/window; A2 = right sliding door/window; B = hand controller for guiding capsule; C1 = left oxygen hose; C2 = right oxygen hose; D1 = left sticky pads at ends of arms for holding capsule at work site (arms shown retracted in closed-door position); D2 = right sticky pads at ends of arms for holding capsule at work site (arms retracted in closed-door position); E = tool storage; F = hydrogen peroxide propellant tank; G = pressure seal curtain deployment channel; H = Whipple Bumper hull. Image credit: Chrysler Corporation/DSFPortree
Dutzmann and Dunford thus proposed an intermediate developmental step in spacewalk technology: a three-foot-diameter, eight-foot-tall "Transportation and Work Station Capsule," normally kept unpressurized, that would provide the space-suited astronaut with an extra layer of protection from injury, a shelter in case of suit damage, improved mobility, worksite lighting, and places inside to store up to 30 pounds of tools. With a 230-pound space-suited astronaut inside and a full load of 30 pounds of hydrogen peroxide propellant, the cylindrical capsule would weigh just 550 pounds.

The capsule hull would comprise two layers of aluminum, each a fraction of an inch thick, separated by an empty space a little less than an inch wide. Meteoroids would strike the outer layer, break apart and partly vaporize, then strike the inner layer. Testing showed that this design, based on the Whipple Bumper concept, could provide meteoroid protection equivalent to that offered by a solid aluminum hull four times as thick. The Whipple Bumper was named for its inventor, comet astronomer Fred Whipple.

Dutzmann and Dunford suggested that the empty space between the aluminum layers be filled with aluminum honeycomb to improve structural strength. The lightweight Whipple Bumper hull meant that the Chrysler capsule's structure would weigh just 88 pounds.

The capsule's dome-shaped ends would each contain a thruster group. A total of 12 catalyst-bed thrusters, not too different from the Mercury spacecraft attitude-control thrusters, would draw hydrogen peroxide from a tank located at the capsule center of gravity. Upon contact with the catalyst, the hydrogen peroxide would turn to high-temperature steam and vent from the thruster nozzle. Each thruster could produce up to 10 pounds of thrust.

The astronaut, who would stand within the capsule, would open a pair of sliding doors with windows and lean out through the open doorway to perform tasks using tools gripped in gloved hands. Two pairs of telescoping arms with sticky pads at the ends, arranged one above the other, would extend through the 27-inch-by-78-inch door opening on either side of the astronaut's legs to hold the capsule in place at the work site.

A pair of Chrysler Transportation and Work Station Capsules in action in lunar orbit. Image credit: Chrysler Corporation
A unique feature of Chrysler's capsule was its "pressure seal curtain" system. In the event of a suit puncture or tear, a transparent plastic sheet sleeve would rise up a deployment "channel" from a donut-shaped storage area in the capsule floor to surround and enclose the astronaut.

Dutzmann and Dunford offered a timeline for pressure seal curtain activation. They assumed that the astronaut's fabric space suit would most likely become damaged while the capsule was attached to a work site since at all other times the astronaut would remain inside the capsule with the doors closed.

They expected that a "pressurization emergency" would be detected 10 seconds after suit damage occurred. Five seconds post-detection, the capsule would automatically detach from the four arms holding it at its work site. This would clear the way for its sliding doors to shut 10 seconds after detection. Fifteen seconds after detection, the seal curtain would rise up and attach itself to the capsule "ceiling." Simultaneously, a backup oxygen supply mounted behind the astronaut's shoulders would activate, increasing flow into the astronaut's damaged suit. Air leaking from the suit would begin to fill the seal curtain volume 30 seconds after leak detection.

Much like the fabric space suit, the seal curtain would vent oxygen overboard to prevent buildup of exhaled carbon dioxide. Dutzmann and Dunford assumed that, to avoid oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide buildup within his helmet, the astronaut would open his visor soon after pressure within the seal curtain exceeded 2.7 psi.

The astronaut would then pilot the capsule back to its docking structure on the home spacecraft. If the capsule remained within 1000 feet of the docking structure, as Dutzmann and Dunford recommended, the trip would last less than 10 minutes.

The three Saturn I-launched Pegasus satellites would reveal that the threat from meteoroids in space was less severe than expected, but other dangers lay in wait for 1960s spacewalkers. The Soviet Union would for years claim that Alexei Leonov's spacewalk was a complete success, when in fact he could not control his movements, overheated, and became stuck sideways in Voskhod 2's inflatable airlock.

Ed White's excursion outside the Gemini IV spacecraft, less than a month after the Chrysler engineers presented their capsule design, was nearly as successful as Leonov's was claimed to have been. More careful analysis would, however, have pointed to potential problems - White's suit expanded during his spacewalk, and he exceeded the cooling capacity of his air-cooled space suit while struggling to squeeze into his narrow seat and close his balky spacecraft hatch.

Not until humankind's perilous third spacewalk on 5 June 1966 would the inadequacies of air-cooled space suits become obvious. During an ambitious attempt to fly free of the Gemini IX spacecraft using a 168-pound hydrogen peroxide-fueled Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU) backpack, pilot Eugene Cernan tore his suit's outer layers, overheated, and became blinded by perspiration as he struggled against his suit's internal pressure. Cernan's AMU flight was called off and NASA was forced to descope its planned series of complex Gemini Program spacewalks (see "More Information" below).


"Design Considerations for a Free Space Transportation and Work Station Capsule," R. Dutzmann and E. Dunford, Proceedings of the 2nd Space Congress, April 1965, pp. 403-430

Chrysler's Ballistic Missile and Space Activities: First 20 Years, Chrysler Corporation, 1972

Walking to Olympus: An EVA Chronology, Monographs in Aerospace History #7, David S. F. Portree and Robert C. Trevino, NASA History Office, October 1997, pp. 1-5, 11 - https://history.nasa.gov/monograph7.pdf (accessed 12 November 2017)

More Information

The Spacewalks That Never Were: Gemini Extravehicular Planning Group (1965) (how Soviet deception concerning Leonov's spacewalk led NASA to plan complex Gemini spacewalks)

Rocket Belts and Rocket Chairs: Lunar Flying Units (1960s plans for rocket-powered lunar surface transportation)

15 October 2017

Mission to the Mantle: Michael Duke's Moonrise

This NASA image of the gibbous Moon by photographer Lauren Harnett includes an intruder - the International Space Station (ISS) (lower right). The Moon, last visited by humans in December 1972, is about 384,400 kilometers away; ISS, permanently occupied since November 2000, is about 1000 times nearer Earth.
A casual glance at the Moon's disk reveals signs of ancient violence. Nearside, the lunar hemisphere we can see from Earth, is marked by gray areas set against white. Some are noticeably circular. The Apollo expeditions revealed that these relatively smooth basalt plains are scars left by large impactors - comets or asteroids - that pummeled the Moon more than 3.5 billion years ago. These gray areas cover about 20% of the lunar surface. They are concentrated on the nearside, the lunar hemisphere that faces the Earth.

An Earth-based observer cannot view the largest and oldest giant impact basin because it is out of view on the Moon's hidden farside. South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin is about 2500 kilometers wide, making it perhaps the largest impact scar in the Solar System. Lunar Orbiter data revealed its existence in the 1960s, though little was known of it until the 1990s, when the U.S. Clementine and Lunar Prospector polar orbiters mapped surface chemistry over the entire Moon. Their data showed that the basin floor probably includes material excavated from the Moon's lower crust and upper mantle. In the first decades of the 21st century, laser altimeters on the U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Japanese Kaguya spacecraft confirmed that SPA includes the lowest places on the Moon.

Lunar hemispheres centered on the Moon's highest point (left) and lowest point (right). Both occur in the Moon's farside hemisphere and are believed to be associated with the excavation of the South Pole-Aitken Basin perhaps 4 billion years ago. On this U.S. Geologic Survey topographic map, blue indicates low areas and gray and black indicate high areas. 
South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin with major features labeled. The 140-kilometer-wide crater Antoniadi includes a 12-kilometer-wide unnamed crater, the floor of which is more than nine kilometers below the mean lunar radius (the lunar equivalent of Earth's sea level). It is the lowest point on the Moon. Image credit: NASA/ASU/DSFPortree
Michael Duke, a retired NASA Johnson Space Center geologist with the Colorado School of Mines, participated in both Apollo and 1990s lunar explorations. In 1999, Duke was Principal Investigator (PI) leading a team that proposed a robotic SPA sample-return mission in NASA's low-cost Discovery Program. To fit under Discovery's mission cost cap of $150 million (in Fiscal Year 1992 dollars), Duke's team proposed "the simplest-possible mission" - a single lander with no sample-collecting rover, a lunar-surface stay-time of just 24 hours, and a low-capability lunar-orbiting radio-relay satellite (needed because farside is not in line-of-sight radio contact with Earth). Believing that these limitations added up to a high risk of mission failure, NASA rejected the 1999 Discovery proposal.

In 2002, however, the National Research Council's planetary science Decadal Survey declared SPA sample return to be a high scientific priority and, at the same time, proposed a new class of competitively selected medium-cost missions. The latter marked the genesis of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which originally had a cost cap per mission of $700 million.

The New Horizons Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) flyby mission was already under development when NASA created the New Frontiers Program. NASA gave New Frontiers a highly visible first mission by adopting New Horizons into the program. Selection of the KBO mission came to be regarded as the first New Frontiers proposal cycle, though it included no competition. NASA had taken a similar approach when it made Mars Pathfinder its first Discovery Program mission in 1992.

Geologist Michael Duke in 2004. Image credit: NASA
Duke's team immediately began to upgrade its SPA proposal for the second New Frontiers proposal cycle. In October 2002, Duke described the new SPA mission design at the 53rd International Astronautical Federation Congress (the Second World Space Congress) in Houston, Texas. To avoid tipping off competing New Frontiers proposers, his paper provided only limited technical details.

Duke argued that the SPA sample-return mission could collect ancient deep crust and mantle rocks without a costly rover. Clementine and Lunar Prospector had shown that at least half of the surface material in the central part of SPA was native to the basin, so stood a good chance of having originated deep within the Moon.

Furthermore, Apollo demonstrated that any lunar site is likely to yield a wide assortment of samples because the Moon's low gravity and surface vacuum enable asteroid impacts to widely scatter rock fragments. The Apollo 11 mission to Mare Tranquillitatis, for example, found and returned to Earth rocks blasted from the Moon's light-hued Highlands. Duke proposed that the SPA sample-return lander sift about 100 kilograms of lunar dirt to gather a one-kilogram sample consisting of thousands of small rock fragments. These would have many origins, but a large percentage would be likely to have originated in the Moon's deep crust and mantle.

A SPA sample-return lander sifts lunar dust in quest of small fragments of lower crust and upper mantle material. The gray dome mounted sideways on the right side of the lander, above the sample arm attachment point, is the sample-return capsule for carrying a one-kilogram sample through Earth's atmosphere. Image credit: NASA
NASA rejected the Discovery SPA mission in part out of concern for lander safety. Duke noted that, with the New Frontiers Program's $700-million cost cap, the SPA sample-return mission could include two landers. This would provide a backup in case one crashed. He pointed out, however, that automated Surveyor spacecraft of the 1960s had found the Moon to be a relatively easy place on which to land even without the benefits of 21st-century hazard-avoidance technology. Two landers would also increase the already good chance that the mission could collect samples representative of the basin's earliest history.

A $700-million budget would also enable a relay satellite "more competent" than its bare-bones Discovery predecessor. It might be placed in a halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 point, 64,500 kilometers behind the Moon as viewed from Earth. From that position, the satellite would permit continuous radio contact between Earth and the landers. A satellite in lunar orbit could remain in line-of-sight contact with both the landers and Earth for only brief periods.

NASA had argued that a single day on the Moon provided too little time to modify the SPA Discovery mission if it suffered difficulties. The SPA New Frontiers mission would, therefore, remain on the Moon for longer. Duke noted, however, that stay-time would probably be limited to the length of the lunar daylight period (14 Earth days) because designing the twin landers to withstand the frigid lunar night would boost their cost.

In February 2004, Duke's mission - christened Moonrise - became one of two SPA sample-return missions proposed in the second New Frontiers proposal cycle. In July 2004, NASA awarded Moonrise and a Jupiter polar orbiter called Juno $1.2 million each for additional study. In May 2005, the space agency selected Juno for full development.

Juno's selection did not end proposals for SPA Basin sample-return, though it did mark the beginning of the end of Duke's involvement. In the third New Frontiers proposal cycle, which began in 2009, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Lockheed Martin/Washington University in St. Louis team led by Brad Jolliff, Duke's deputy PI in the 2003-2004 cycle, proposed a SPA Basin mission called MoonRise. In 2011, the SPA sample-return mission was again selected as a New Frontiers finalist, but it lost out in the final selection to the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid sample-return mission. MoonRise was not selected as a finalist in the 2017 New Frontiers cycle.


"Sample Return from the Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin," M. Duke, Advances in Space Research, Volume 31, Number 11, June 2003, pp. 2347-2352

"NASA Selects Two 'New Frontiers' Mission Concepts for Further Study," D. Savage, NASA Press Release 04-222, NASA Headquarters, 16 July 2004

NASA Facts: MoonRise - A Sample-Return Mission From the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin, NASA Facts, JPL 400-1408, June 2010

"MoonRise: Sample Return from the South Pole-Aitken Basin," L. Akalai, B. Jolliff, and D. Papanastassiou; presentation to the International Planetary Probe Workshop, Barcelona, Spain, 17 June 2010

Personal communication, B. Jolliff to D. Portree, 3 March 2018

More Information

Peeling Away the Layers of Mars (1966)

An Apollo Landing Near the Great Ray Crater Tycho (1969)

Catching Some Comet Dust: Giotto II (1985)

Lunar GAS (1987)

The Eighth Continent