Sky at Night Magazine - - AT A GLANCE -

The lu­nar mis­sions of Apollo are well chron­i­cled. But there were ex­ten­sive plans for fol­low-on mis­sions, of which only 1973’s Sky­lab and 1975’s Apollo-Soyuz sur­vived. Start­ing in the mid-1960s the Apollo Ap­pli­ca­tions Pro­gram dreamed up var­i­ous ways of us­ing Apollo hard­ware af­ter the lu­nar land­ing. These in­cluded Apollo-de­rived space sta­tions, lu­nar out­posts, and a Mars flyby (See the July 2019 is­sue).

Of these mis­sion plans, per­haps the most in­spired was a crewed flyby of Venus. The Saturn V had the power to launch the space­craft to­ward Venus, the Apollo cap­sule would soon be bat­tle-tested via the lu­nar flights, and the up­per stage of the Saturn rocket – the S-IVB stage – could be con­verted into a habi­tat for the Venus-bound ex­plor­ers. The round trip to the planet and back would have taken just over a year, with the crew liv­ing in quar­ters about the size of a small apart­ment. While their loop past Venus would only last a few hours, they would drop var­i­ous probes into the planet’s at­mos­phere and con­duct as­tron­omy en route from a large tele­scope mounted on the S-IVB stage.

In the end, the Apollo Ap­pli­ca­tions Pro­gram’s bud­get was cut along with the rest of the post-Apollo 17 lu­nar flights, doom­ing the more ex­otic mis­sion plans. But had it been at­tempted, Apollo’s jour­ney to Venus would have been an amaz­ing – if dan­ger­ous – jour­ney.

NASA planned to con­vert the up­per stage of a Saturn V rocket to hold Venus-bound as­tro­nauts

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