Apollo Design Concepts From 1961 – Original Drawings Revealed

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Thanks to Ben for sharing these drawings he found in his Grandfather’s files. These are drawings from the original proposal by North American Aviation for the Apollo Command Module. These were made in September 1961 before the Apollo program had decided to use Lunar Orbit Rendezvous to reduce mass requirements. As such the designs are built around landing the command module on the moon using a big lander.

Ben has shared the high resolution scans of the designs at https://apollopreliminarydrawings.com/

  1. Sparky Projects

    @Scott Manley The BBC mentioned the Bacon Hydrogen Fuel Cell, without which the apollo mission couldn’t have happened.
    A British invention.

  2. Rocketplumber

    That J-2 engine on the Apollo lander might be a pressure fed variant with an injector head designed to be stable at lower flow rates.

  3. Dre Zee

    This is a lot like the Gemini landing concept

  4. Smerbo The Fleeb

    Loved that intro

  5. DKTAz00

    Love the intro :D

  6. getahanddown

    I think possibly there was just very little information understood by the polititians deciding along with the engineers knowing things would change drasticly with testing equals some “place holder / serving suggestion” type submissions.

  7. Charles Redditt

    I would love to see a video about how feasible it would be for the Soviets to have attempted a moon landing with multiple Soyuz/Proton/Zond launches, kind of like Von Braun’s original Earth Orbit Rendezvous idea. Build infrastructure in Earth orbit first, then use that to go to the Moon. Doubtful they could have beat us to the Moon, but they could have been the first to establish a semi-permanent Moon base 🤔

  8. Daniel Waltimire

    Wasn’t it Martin that came in first but was passed over for North American?

  9. cmdraftbrn

    curious what the grumman guy got to say about this

  10. Jim Dox

    Loving the new intro!

  11. TobyAsE120

    These are hand-drawn, aren’t they?
    I can’t even draw a circle that is round or write in a manner that is readable to a normal person!

  12. matthew s

    the first contact awarded to Apollo was the guidance computer, since the computer
    ended up being a fly by wire system and a virtual representation of the capsule
    Luna docking, became possible because it was a virtual reality experience?
    maybe Apollo should be looked at in a different light altogether, the beginning of big data projects

  13. Karl BRISSET

    “Few weeks ago, somebody came to me saying they could repair my car on the highway … ” I like that new intro, atleast something good happened from it

  14. quantumac

    Nice bit of history there. Glad it wasn’t lost!

  15. Paul Trappiel

    Oooooh I would love those drawings Scott. A little scant on detail though these look like concept plans only.

  16. MarcAFK

    A lot heavier? The J-2 alone weighs almost 2 tons.

  17. Intermernet

    That lander has a lot of struts. I approve.

  18. Maxxy

    The intro is so cute :D

  19. riotintheair

    The story of how lunar rendezvous got adopted is one of my favorite stories from Apollo.

  20. Phos9

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while: does throttling an engine down increase the effective size of its bell?
    Related, but in KSP, specific impulse only increases as atmospheric pressure decreases, is this realistic?

  21. Asger Vestbjerg

    Interesting design
    Thanks for sharing👍😀

  22. RocKiteman _ 2001

    @Scott Manley >>> FWIW, I am pretty sure I have seen drawings in at least one Rogallo-related NASA Technical Note showing an Apollo capsule using a parawing. {I have a few TNs, either ordered in print or downloaded.}

  23. Bill Kerr

    Great find! Thanks for posting the link.

  24. The Algorithm

    Excellent. Thanks to Ben and his grandfather for this priceless historical artifact.

  25. Jordan Snowhook

    My Father also worked for North American/Rockwell in the early 1960s. Though I don’t have drawings, I do have orbital calculations in his collection of papers. But it would be pretty hard to tie to the Mercury, Gemini or Apollo programs, since they were classified documents at the time and he didn’t label anything. I’ll have to check with my brother.

  26. Graham 1973

    Quite interesting. I have a document covering a test in 1962 using the same spacecraft design.

  27. Flashfire2205

    You should build it in RO.

  28. steve shoemaker

    Man Scott those are some very….Interesting drawings All slid rule stuff ….Great going my friend…..As always thanks a bunch…..To be sure…!

  29. Nicholas Maude

    Amy Shira Teitel would be interested in this website.

  30. Jacob smith

    Could you do a video on targeting the ocean since you mentioned it? I have wondered about that… I just wish they would fix the trajectories mod so I can land shuttles a little more accurately 😢

  31. Docktor Jim

    My dad was involved in that!

  32. Stephen Irwin

    Cool, Think it was North American Aviation not Aerospace.

  33. reviews and repairs

    great to see you in the apollo agc video :)

  34. eurosat7

    If you get a positive response with a digital copy of the actual drawings – that would be awesome. ;)

  35. bmobert

    Mind you, that 100 short tons: 2000 lbs each. Long tons, aka metric tons, or “tonnes” is 2200 Lbs.
    Just sayin’.

  36. Simon Coles

    the original NAA proposal was a giant ship… so impressive.

  37. Gospodin Kiuchukov

    RSS + RO then is properly tested!

  38. Odysseus Rex

    These drawings are clearly for a direct ascent architecture.

  39. Geoffrey Lee

    The original designed LEM had five legs, and modelled from a block of wood, with bent paperclips showing leg placement.

  40. Dylan Madigan

    KSP Challenge: Fix the EU’s navigation system

  41. Gean Ozz

    Crowd fund heaven……..c’mon Scott build it !!

  42. Dark Guardian

    Landing legs would have worked on the moon’s 1/6 gravity… Never seen a design like that…

  43. Joseph Kane

    I got whiplash of the eyeballs trying to look at the drawings. Scott was switching between drawings too quickly!

  44. Quack Quark

    Early designs for the Grumman LEM used a rope instead of a ladder. No idea if North American had a similar idea.

  45. Lewis Stockett

    I’m so glad that someone preserved this important and fascinating piece of history. Thanks for doing a video on it.

  46. Chris Hunter

    I love this so much. I think I am going to print and frame some of these next to a photo of the physical finished design

  47. dosmastrify

    7:46 translation: stay tuned for vintage space to shortcut and half misrepresent a couple things seem here!

  48. Sky Bound

    All hand drawn by men with slide rules and pencils tucked behind their ears while smoking no doubt. Legends.

  49. wheeln 24/7

    It was cool you got to see the apollo agc those guys restored. Waiting on the next video and hoping they eventually try to replicate parts of the flight!

  50. Creative Creeper

    Hey Scott, Can you please do a KSP video about What happened to the Lunar Lander descent stage

  51. KaiserRedGamer

    8:17 What you have been waiting for

  52. Decus

    I’ve always found engineering drawings to be elegantly beautiful.

  53. Chris Holt

    Will you do a video about when you visited CuriousMarc for the first running of the AGC? It was a nice surprise to see you show up on his channel!

  54. Jeffrey Bue

    I could “google it” but I thought the LEM design and manufacturing contract was awarded to “what was” the Grumman corporation.

  55. cheeseball

    You should use the Scot Manly intro from SWDenis’s “Random Compilation 13”

  56. Eric D'Aleo

    i knew you’d mention toroidal tanks the second I saw that torsor ;)

  57. Rachel Brinkley

    I bet you could do a series on different Martian landing Proposals as well

  58. Craig Corson

    I always felt so sorry for the CMPs, having to remain in lunar orbit while the other two landed. This design would have enabled all three to go to the surface.

  59. Tiisiphone

    Never saw any of these prototype drawings before. Very interesting!

  60. Dana Munkelt

    My Dad worked at Convair at this time, and they bid on the
    LEM, including a full size mock-up. Some of us employees kids got to see that one Saturday. There must be drawings somewhere for all the proposals. That would be great to collect and publish.

  61. Plasminium

    The intro :D

  62. Adymn Sani

    you had all the little gerbils’ heads bouncing around during thrust maneuvers-cool…

  63. Mike Stiber

    Fun fact: The AJ10-137 engine that was used on the CSM was twice as powerful as needed because the engine was initially sized for a trans-earth injection scenario. The Apollo variant used Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetroxide. This engine has a long and storied history – Atlas, Titan, Apollo, the Shuttle, and even the upcoming Orion. Perhaps a video on this engine would be of interest to your followers Mr. Manley Man?
    Originally the astronauts were to use a pulley system to hoist themselves to and from the lunar surface. When this proved too cumbersome, they opted for a ladder.

  64. Vladimir Lenin

    Please keep that intro

  65. Don Jones

    Probably still better than Orion/SLS.

  66. Sean McDonough

    5:54 – Maybe they were going to circumvent the landing problem entirely and have the astronauts eject from the capsule on the way down and land under their own personal parachutes, Vostok-style?

  67. Jeff Dacey

    It’s nice to see that some of this information is finding its way to being viewed by the interested public. Years ago, I was working for a contractor who were preparing a bid for Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral. To assist in the preparation for the bid, we were supplied with a ream of drawings for the original construction of the pad. There were civil drawings, concrete and rebar drawings, structural steel drawings of the structures on the pad, piping drawings, and plot plans of the entire area surrounding the pad. As an engineer,
    I was fascinated with the history of these documents.They were very detailed, and given the period, all created by hand.
    Almost oall of them were made just before I was even born. To give you some idea when that was, the first moon landing coincided with my seventh birthday. So naturally, the event captured my attention then and most certainly has had a lasting effect on my career choice.
    As was common at the time, the contract documents were considered confidential so no copying was permitted. Many of the documents still had the original CLASSIFIED stamps among others denoting the confidentiality of the documents for national security. I was very eager to make a site visit to satisfy my own curiosity (and to secretly fulfill a decades old childhood wish to stand on the very spot where the moon rockets lifted off). My operations manager denied the request, saying I’m a foreigner (Canadian) and not eligible to enter high security sites operated by NASA. I reminded him that a large number of the original NASA team of engineers and technicians in the late 50’s and early 60’s were Canadians, having been recently dismissed from the Avro Arrow project by the newly elected Canadian government at the time.
    I would love to see those drawings one more time. In the end, our bid was unsuccessful based on pricing, but I later found out that the winning bidder’s technical proposal employed a very similar method to that I designed. Still, it would have been nice to put a NASA project on my resume.

  68. ypey1

    I saw you on the CuriousMarc channel, when can we expect a video on that apolo computer refubish?!

  69. Rich

    GE had a really neat idea, like a bigger Soyuz.

  70. Vasile Sulica

    This thing is huge, most flying with a giant rocket.Nova probable .

  71. Cray Ze Ape

    Somewhere else on Youtube, who’s knocking on the door? I knew who it was before the door opened, hope you got some good footage Scott.

  72. John Schlick

    Shouldn’t the title of this be: Scott Scoops Vintage space?

  73. David Sorell

    3:20: did you say Aerozine 50 *or* UDMH or Aerozine 50 *and* UDMH. Because Aerozine 50 is just UDMH+Water

  74. Ryan Spinola

    I’ve heard of the Apollo parawing design before and saw a picture and one major difference between the Apollo and Gemini parawings is that instead of the capsule nose being pointed forward like the Gemini parawing on the Apollo the capsule would have the nose pointed up and the heatshield on the bottom. Also you should check out the Bono mars glider it was pretty insane.

  75. duke_of_lilywhite

    These are obviously blueprints from the Nova rocket that was initially proposed by Werner von Braun back in the late 1950s when flying to the moon was just a dream. However, according to legend, the proposal was rejected because the US government felt the rocket to huge, expensive, and cumbersome for going to the Moon. Which is a shame because if official records are correct, it would have been suitable for The Mars Project, a follow-on mission that was supposed to take humans to Mars in 1982. Imagine how things would have turned out if the people writing the checks listen to Von Braun. Here’s a hyperlink below to a NASA archive page with more details. ┌( ಠ‿ಠ)┘

  76. Тимофей Воронов

    Recently prepared a summary of a book in my university, it was “Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity” by a Russian American author Slava Gerovitch.
    It has a lot to offer if you’re interested about the cultural processes behind and around all this stuff.

  77. Clare Wulf

    Buzz is a damn legend, my favourite of the Apollo astronauts.

  78. Slikx666

    A big round of applause for Ben. 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

  79. Daniel Staal

    I wonder if that J-2 was for primary burns, with the verniers speced for enough thrust for the final landing. The J-2 does the orbital insertion and deorbit (at higher ISP), and then is switched off for landing.

  80. Faceball

    My grandfather also worked at N.A.A. He was an instrumentation and hydraulic engineer and was a project engineer for Apollo 3. He left us with a few promotional posters published by N.A.A. Great stuff ! !

  81. Ed Klein

    I’d just read “The Man Who Knew The Way To The Moon” – all about John Houbolt’s fight to get NASA on the path to LOR and was going to suggest you try to build a Kerbal lunar mission without LOR. Awesome timing!

  82. Buck Fitches

    A J2 is a bit overkill for a lunar lander.

  83. Redchrome1

    Scott, could you share your KSP craft file which you used for this ship? I’m curious how it goes together.
    Has anyone else duplicated this ship in KSP?

  84. CDHord

    Thanks Scott! I appreciate the thoughtful reply. Love your content!

  85. Paul Challis

    Amy Shira Teitel will be all over this :)

  86. Bruce Price

    Those design drawings are awesome! I love everything about the Apollo program – the history, the design concepts for the vehicle and facilities, its all just fascinating how all these people went from knowing virtually nothing of what needed to be known — the best way to get there and back, how to survive in the hostile environment, how to rendevous with another vehicle and survive to tell about it, the best designs for the needed facilities and just what facilities would be needed, and on and on.
    When I worked at KSC I read an excellent book that covered literally every aspect of the design, development and implementation of what would become KSC and the Apollo moon landing program. You have to be the kind of person that enjoys knowing every detail, because this book is just that, a highly detailed accounting of KSC and Apollo, including all the specialised structures and ground support equipment needed to make it all happen. Nothing is left out. The book was called “Moonport”. I can’t remember who authored it. I remember it was about 3-1/2 to 4 inches thick. Highly detailed from beginning to end, and full of detailed drawings and histories of all the major players along the way.
    Someone such as yourself, Mr.Manley, I suspect would enjoy and appreciate this accounting of this period of America’s manned space program. I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of or read this book…most interesting.

  87. israelshirk

    Also, to your question at the end – it’s a matter of adherence to the LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) philosophy of creative, production, and other processes. It’s common for people on deadline to take stuff home either to work on, look at, or have an extra copy of. There’s an interesting story about how it saved Pixar’s Toy Story 2 when someone had an offline copy at home which more or less saved the production when corruption cascaded through all the hot copies and backups, and there were no cold backups to be had.

  88. Jett Quasar

    I love the Apollo designs! I need to build those and try them out for myself.

  89. Parax77

    Everyone should go listen to the “13 minutes to the moon” podcast..

  90. tinkmarshino

    WOW what a find I just HAVE to go and see.. thanks BEN! and thanks SCOTT!

  91. LoganThe Llama

    This is such a nice break after the conspiracy theorist-ridden comments of the 60 minutes video with Neil Armstrong

  92. Larry Scott

    There were coffee-table books in mid 60s with Apollo concept artwork.
    The design in these drawings didn’t get very far, they never saw public release probably because they were revised into oblivion faster than the draftsman could draw them.

  93. Guillaume Breton

    its frikkin amazing what NASA (and the USSR) were able to achieve in such a small amount of time, !! starting from almost 0, all these designs, all the fabrication, all the testing, thinking about eeeeverything !!! what an achievement !

  94. mx2000

    I love these hand-made engineering drawings. It is a bit like a lost art form.

  95. Mark Hancock

    On how things get saved, my Dad was part of the team that mapped out the landing sites for Apollo. On thing the team started doing at one point was to create large (I seem to recall about 3′ x 4′) 3D vacuform models of the landing site. These were really thin and large; so, eventually, they usually got tossed. My Dad saved an entire set in the attic of our house and there they set for 40 years until my Mom was cleaning out the attic and decided they needed to go some place safer; so, she sold them to a museum. I imagine this happens a lot.

  96. Jared Maddox

    I’d have to say that if the corpse dies _during_ the funeral instead of before it, that should probably be called a “Herculean” funeral, instead of a “Viking” one.

  97. #1 Tako

    Para wing concept for the Apollo bid? Well that’s gonna make Amy of Vintage Space pretty happy.

  98. Anarchy Antz

    The space laboratory is obviously for housing the mystery goo to see how it reacts.

  99. Too Sense Wirth

    My neighbors father worked at Grumman in the 60’s. She inherited a 3 ring binder that was a manual for the LM, about 7-800 pages. She let me look at it once, it was like holding and looking through the Apollo bible!

  100. Rocket Moose

    Scott could you do a video on rocket throttling, maybe a ksp doesn’t teach or something like that?

Comments are closed.