Von Braun’s 1982 NASA manned Mars mission plan

by | Sep 24, 2008 | Seradata News | 2 comments

While the pre-Apollo Wernher von Braun manned Mars mission plan is well known through the Collier’s magazine and von Braun’s now published Project Mars: A Technical tale, the German born rocket engineer also developed long range plans for the Nixon administration that included a 1982 manned Mars mission

The images in this blog post are from the 4 August 1969 presentation to the then US president Richard Nixon’s Space Task Group

Gone are the winged interplanetary rockets seen in Project Mars that glide to a landing on the Martian surface after using huge tanks of chemical propellant to reach the red planet, now nuclear powered departure stages are launched and assembled in low Earth orbit while a Space Shuttle ferries the crew to the completed Marship

While only the Shuttle survived the integrated programme plan the presentation gives an idea of how Apollo had changed von Braun’s thinking with the introduction of manned landers that are in a re-entry capsule type configuration for touching down on Mars

The schedule below shows details such as the 1977 test date for the Marship’s nuclear propulsion, a 1974 test flight date for the Space Shuttle  and an orbiter flight rate of 100 missions a year by 1980

While the image below shows a simple timetable with permanently manned outposts in Earth, lunar and Martian orbit and on the Moon and Mars’ surfaces with almost 250 people manning these by 1990

This alternate timeline for US space exploration was the basis for the 1997 Stephen Baxter book Voyage. Von Braun’s plans are the also discussed in this 2001 NASA paper  and this International Academy of Astronauts paper


Flight International’s 14 August 1969 issue also reported this manned Mars mission plan. On pages 263 and 264 the then NASA administrator Thomas Paine is said to have told a 1 August press conference that for a manned flight to Mars a decision would have to be
made “not later than 1976” to ensure the launch of a crew of 12 in the early 1980s

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