A visionary plan for a mission to Mars: Wernher von Braun's extraordinary handwritten notes in pencil on the requirements for a spacecraft destined for Mars, unsigned, four pages, no date. The first page is headed, "Main performance data of passenger ship," and the notes consist of tables recording weights and weight reductions during various stages of flight. First is entitled "Maneuver 1 (Departure from 2 hr-orbit)," and records the weight for "Thrust (8 rigid, 4 hinged engines)" at 360 metric tons. Next is "Weight reduction prior to Maneuver 2," and accounts for the loss of 7.4 tons from "Oxygen, food and water consumed by 6-man crew during 260-day unpowered flight," and 10.5 tons for detached tanks and rocket engines. The second page begins with "Maneuver 2 (capture in Mars orbit)," followed by "Weight increase prior to Maneuver 3," which accounts for a total of 12.4 tons added due to "Oxygen, food and water for 260-day return flight plus 20 day reserve (contact by relief ship) for 12-man crew transferred from cargo ship" and "4 more crew members taken aboard," minus the weight of detached tanks. The final two pages anticipate weights during the return trip, including "Maneuver 3 (departure from Mars orbit)," "Weight reduction prior to Maneuver 4)," and "Maneuver 4 (return into hr-earth orbit)." In fine condition, with a tiny hole to upper left corner of the fist page.
Von Braun was fascinated by the idea of a manned mission to Mars and made the first engineering analysis of such an excursion in 1948, publishing his findings in 1952. The calculations offered here are certainly related to his extremely ambitious proposal, inspired by the Antarctic expeditions of the early 20th century. He envisioned a 70-member crew aboard a fleet of ten spacecraft, comprised of seven 'passenger' ships and three 'cargo' ships. The cargo ships would orbit the planet and dispatch groups of explorers to the Martian surface on the smaller passenger vessels. This mission, of course, never happened, and the concept of man's journey to Mars continues to capture the public imagination—an exceptionally desirable technical piece from the mind of the great rocket scientist.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.