Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Video Del Fuego, Part XXVII

I've been getting my amateur spaceman groove on with Orbiter. While I was looking for new and nifty things to try, I came across a really interesting video:

The Apollo Applications Program started out as a fairly ambitious effort to find interesting uses for the expensive hardware NASA was developing for the Moon landings. In the end, the only parts of AAP to come to fruition were Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In one of its original iterations, Skylab was to use what had been called the Wet Workshop concept. That is, the spent S-IVB stage itself would become the interior of the space station. The empty fuel tank would be pressurized, and then filled with equipment for an extended stay ... pretty much anywhere. Plans had been drawn up for a variety of options, from Earth-orbit stations, to Lunar orbit, to flyby missions to Mars or Venus. None of them came to life, though. Mounting costs led to the cancellation of the later Apollo lunar landings, which freed up a couple of Saturn V vehicles. This meant that a two-stage Saturn V could launch a fully-prepped S-IVB dry workshop all in one go, crew-ready. Arguably, Skylab was more effective as a dry workshop than as a wet workshop.

Still, this would have been one freaky mission to have been on. President Nixon would have seen them off ... and President Ford would have welcomed them back on their return.

"President who? Ah, Houston, did something important happen while we were away?"

It's just as well that we didn't. Glorious as it might have been, it carried a steep opportunity cost in terms of other things that couldn't have been done. Between them, Pioneer Venus and Magellan cost maybe a quarter what this would have, and returned far more data.

Still, it's fun to imagine.

[Addendum: This video was put together by the same person who did the Voyage video featured earlier. He's got a pretty great sense for timing and music. I simply must get a copy of that Beethoven piece.]

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