[Bell Telephone Laboratories], November 1962. Flat wooden model, constructed in sections with tabs and slot assembly; several parts secured in place with adhesive and metal pins. Front sides printed in different colors, with simplified schematic diagrams and abbreviations of names and functions. Printed paper labels to verso, with additional letters in black pen identifying model components. Some breakage of delicate or narrow sections; broken and detached parts present and included. Very good. Item #23787
Original two-dimensional particleboard presentation model of a proposed lunar spacecraft incorporating the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous concept, designed by Bell Telephone Laboratories and dated November 1962, the same month NASA awarded the contract for development of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) to Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation.
Until July 1962, competing factions had favored the alternative methods of direct ascent or Earth Orbit Rendezvous Direct ascent, though simple in concept and appealing in theory, would have required development of the enormous Nova rocket for launch; and EOR, favored by Werner von Braun and his associates, would have involved two independent launches which would then rendezvous in Earth orbit, assemble a lunar vehicle, proceed to the Moon and back again.
The Lunar Orbit Rendezvous called for the launch of one Saturn rocket to orbit the Moon, from which a smaller landing craft would then detach, and to which it would return for the return trip home. LOR had lagged in popularity due to perceived complexity, the allure of direct ascent, and the particularly alarming risk of failure: abandonment of astronauts in orbit, with no means of rescue, following a potential failed rendezvous. (A pair of scientists from Bell Aerosystems had, in fact, previously proposed a theoretical early delivery of a man to the moon via a one-way trip, with the lucky astronaut promised eventual retrieval once technology allowed, given materials to build himself living quarters the size of a modest studio apartment, and generously provided with enough oxygen for several weeks at least. This proposal was not pursued.)
The LOR's chief proponent was John Houbolt, a NASA Langley engineer who in 1961 wrote an impassioned nine-page letter to the agency's Associate Administrator making his case and iimploring the Administrator not to dismiss him as a crank. This was the impetus for a reappraisal of the idea and, by July 1962, the decison to pursue it. In spite of strong opposition from partisans of the other alternatives -- including Kennedy's science adviser Jerome Wiesner -- NASA officially selected the lunar-orbit rendezvous concept as primary mission mode for a manned moon landing, and consequently issued a call for proposals.
Though not one of the nine companies submitting contract proposals for LEM development, Bell Telephone Laboratories provided NASA with communications planning and systems engineering support for the moon mission begininning in 1962, through Bellcomm, a division newly created for that purpose. This Bell model -- presumably designed as a visual aid to an initial Grumman presentation or NASA press conference -- includes an orange LEM with slender, hinged spider-like legs for landing; jauntier and more elegant than the Apollo lander as eventually constructed, but recognizably its ancester. Built along stylish '60s lines, the color-coded front of the spacecraft is immediately legible to a lay person, while labels on the reverse give a few technical specifics (e.g. "S-IV Burn to Orbit / H = 100 n.mi. / V = 15,000 n.mi/hr.")
A rare and remarkable piece of memorabilia from a crucial moment in the U.S. space program. Unlike any other scale model or mock-up of the era and perhaps the only one of its kind.