The Pegasus satellite was named for the winged horse of Greek mythology. Like its namesake, the Pegasus was notable for its “wings”, a pair of 29 meter long, 4.3 meter wide arrays of 104 panels fitted with sensors to detect punctures by micrometeoroids at high altitudes. In its stored position with panels folded inside the Apollo service module, the Pegasus was 5.3-meters high, 2.1 meters wide, and 28-cm deep.
Over 52 years ago, in the early hours of May 5th, 1961 the US prepared to launch its first man into space. Three weeks earlier, the Soviet Union had sent Yuri Gagarin on an orbital mission. This was a suborbital mission planed to last only 15 minutes. For the moment that did not matter, the entire nation held its breath while Alan Shepard became America’s first man in space.
Saturn 1, SA-6 was the first orbital launch of an Apollo Spacecraft by a Saturn Launch Vehicle and also the first flight utilizing an active ST-124 Stabilized Platform.
During 1962, NASA faced three major tasks: first the mode selection and its defense (covered in episodes 106-109), second keeping North American moving on the command and service modules (covered in episode 110) and third finding a contractor to develop the separate landing vehicle required by that approach. Which we will cover today in episode 111.
After viewing the Apollo spaceport being built in Florida, President Kennedy flew on to Huntsville, Alabama. There, during a tour of Marshall and a briefing on the Saturn V and the lunar-rendezvous mission by von Braun, Jerome Wiesner interrupted Von Braun in front of reporters, saying, “No, that’s no good.” Webb immediately defended von Braun and lunar-orbit rendezvous. The adversaries engaged in a heated exchange until the President stopped them, stating that the matter was still subject to final review.
“I would like to reiterate once more that it is absolutely mandatory that we arrive at a definite mode decision within the next few weeks. . . . If we do not make a clear-cut decision on the mode very soon, our chances of accomplishing the first lunar expedition in this decade will fade away rapidly.” Wernher Von Braun June 7, 1962.
Langley’s brochure for the Golovin Committee described Lunar landers of varied sizes and payload capabilities. There were illustrations and data on a very small lander that was able to carry one man for 2 to 4 hours on the moon. There was an “economy” model that could two men for a 24-hour stay. The third model was called the “plush” module, it would carry two men for a 7-day stay on the moon. Weight estimates for the three craft, without fuel, were 580, 1,010, and 1,790 kilograms, respectively…
The mode that Apollo would use to land on the moon was the most studied, analyzed, and debated decision made for the lunar landing program. There were four main choices Direct-ascent, Earth-Orbit Rendezvous, Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous, and Lunar Surface Rendezvous.