As the Apollo program wound down in the late 60?s, NASA began to think about how it could reuse some of the technology and systems that had been developed for Apollo. This recycling effort was called the Apollo Applications Program. Apollo Applications led to Skylab, America’s first space station, but it was intended for the program to be more than just a one-shot. Skylab was to be followed by Skylab II , which would be more reusable and incorporate the first use of artificial gravity. NASA hoped the Skylabs would lead to a 12-man space station and then a 50-man space base. There were also concepts for a lunar Skylab in polar orbit about the Moon. One by one, all of these concepts were dropped as NASA was forced to divert funding to its priority program – the development of the Space Shuttle.

One of the more interesting concepts from this period did not come from NASA but from a model company called MPC. It may seem unusual for a realistic space-vehicle concept to come from a toy company, but it’s not too surprising given that the Pilgrim Observer was designed by the late G. Harry Stine. An aerospace engineer who learned his trade under Dr. Wernher von Braun, launching V-2 rockets at White Sands, Harry Stine was one of the early advocates of commercial space and author of several books on space exploration and space development, including The Third Industrial Revolution. Although the Pilgrim Observer was not based directly on NASA concepts, Stine did incorporate much of the technology which he knew to be current at the time.

Read more: Deep Space: From Pilgrim to Nautilus — Citizens in Space.

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