The Saturn family of rockets was expected to lead to larger Nova and Supernova rockets by the end of the 1960s. In the NASA illustration above, the three-stage C-1 and four-stage C-5 are anemic predecessors to the Apollo Saturn IB and Saturn V designs. The Apollo-Saturn rockets adopted features of the proposed (but never flown) Nova depicted; in particular, the Nova rocket’s 22-foot-diameter third stage.

EMPIRE Building: Ford Aeronutronic’s Mars/Venus Piloted Flyby Study (1962)

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At the Seventh International Astronautical Congress, held in Rome in September 1956, Italian aviation and rocketry pioneer Gaetano Crocco described a manned space mission in which a spacecraft would conduct a reconnaissance flyby of Mars, swing past Venus to bend its course toward Earth, and, one year to the day after departing Earth orbit, reenter Earth’s atmosphere. After Earth-orbit departure, the spacecraft would need no additional propulsion. Crocco told the assembled delegates that an opportunity to commence such a mission would next occur in June 1971.

A little less than six years later, in May 1962, the Future Projects Office (FPO) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, awarded manned Mars mission study contracts worth $250,000 each to General Dynamics, Lockheed, and the Aeronutronic Division of Ford Motor Company. General Dynamics was instructed to study Mars orbital missions, Lockheed to look at Mars flyby and orbital missions, and Aeronutronic to study dual-planet (Mars-Venus) flybys. The combined study effort was known as EMPIRE, an evocative (if somewhat tortured) acronym that stood for Early Manned Planetary-Interplanetary Roundtrip Expeditions.

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