For every spacecraft that rises from its launch pad, there have been dozens that were conceived but not built. For every brave space mission flown, there have been dozens that flew only in the mission architect’s imagination. Most of these missions that never were only progressed as far as paper studies. In a few cases, however, flight-worthy space vehicles have become scrap or museum exhibits. In other cases, engineers developed alternate flight plans for missions that flew; for example, NASA planned (ironically, as it turned out) a lunar-orbit photography mission for Apollo 13 in the event that its Lunar Module failed and could not be used to land on the moon.
In this blog, I will describe many space missions and programs that never were. I’ll seek to place them in historical context, and to explore why they failed to make the difficult jump from plan to reality. Along the way, I’ll write about our evolving knowledge of the Solar System, NASA’s symbiotic relationship with the Soviet space program, and intricacies of the U. S. political process. My posts will tend to run long, and some might be serialized over several weeks. Above all, they’ll be a meaty treat for my fellow space fans and, I hope, a window into a new world for people who have seldom given spaceflight more than casual consideration.
I think this is fascinating and not only for the sake of historical curiosity. A lot of good, productive plans got shelved and forgotten, and airing them out might give some engineers ideas.