A Look Back At Apollo's Emergency Escape Vehicle

Nick Stevens has resurrected an unused design for an emergency escape system for Apollo astronauts, in the event that the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) failed to start, stranding the astronauts on the moon.

The Lunar Escape Systems (LESS) were a series of escape vehicles that were designed for long-duration Apollo visits to the moon that never happened. They were predicated on a low-cost, low-mass KISS strategy.

These designs, and the spirit behind them, reminded me of the asteroid rocket imagined by Jack Williamson in his 1933 story Salvage in Space. It was basically just a rock that you attached to a mass of metal that you had salvaged. After you climb on, you light off the rocket and off you go!

On the other side of this tiny sphere of hard-won treasure, his Millen atomic rocket was sputtering, spurts of hot blue flame jetting from its exhaust. A simple mechanism, bolted to the first sizable fragment he had captured, it drove the iron ball through space like a ship.

Through the magnetic soles of his insulated boots, Thad could feel the vibration of the iron mass, beneath the rocket's regular thrust. The magazine of uranite fuel capsules was nearly empty, now, he reflected. He would soon have to turn back toward Mars...

The strangeness of interplanetary space, and the somber mystery of it, pressed upon him like an illimitable and deserted ocean. The sun was a tiny white disk on his right, hanging between rosy coronal wings; his native Earth, a bright greenish point suspended in the dark gulf below it; Mars, nearer, smaller, a little ocher speck above the shrunken sun. Above him, below him, in all directions was vastness, blackness, emptiness. Ebon infinity, sprinkled with far, cold stars.

Thad was alone. Utterly alone. No man was visible, in all the supernal vastness of space. And no work of man--save the few tools of his daring trade, and the glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.

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