In the Vintage Space video episode Missions we Lost When Apollo was Cancelled, there is discussion of the Apollo Telescope and the Block 3 command module after about 04:38:

The other thing to go was the Apollo Applications Program, which started life as the Apollo Extension Series.

By 1965 these distant goals were formally on NASA’s books under the Apollo Extension series, retaining the cache and potentially the funding levels of the Apollo program. And NASA had some pretty lofty goals for these initial missions, and it all hinged on using an upgraded spacecraft, namely the command module.

A Block 2 command module was the one that went to the Moon. The block 3 would be for the Apollo extension series and it would have some significant advances.

One of the main experiments under the Apollo Extension Series was to be the Apollo Telescope. This would be a dedicated solar observatory that astronauts could use to make observations of the Sun, from outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The lunar module could also be used for other non-landing missions, around the Earth and around the Moon, and could start building the framework for a worldwide communications resource, and also just be used to fly packages of instruments.


There was also some talk of using the lunar module as the anchor point for that Apollo telescope. Basically the idea was to leverage the lunar module’s extremely reliable propulsion system into these longer missions

Question: How would the Apollo telescope have worked in the Apollo command module? Where would it be located and how would it be operated? I've added a number of possible interesting aspects to this in comments below, but because it's 50 years ago and there may be little information available, I'll leave this particular question with a bit of flexibility.

note: As mentioned in comments below (more than once), there was an "Apollo telescope" on Skylab, but that was a space station and laboratory. I'm asking here specifically about its installation in, and operation from the Apollo command module.

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Telescope_Mount $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Oct 8 '18 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove Thanks for the link, but there's very little there about how the telescope would be operated in the command module. I know there's more information available out there about how the telescope on Skylab was used, and it's cool to find out the instrument was "the Apollo Telescope" but I'm thinking that a lunar module, even with whatever improvements Block 3 had to offer, would have been quite a challenging platform from which to operate a telescope and do serious observing. I'm curious how they planned to do that. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 8 '18 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ How much detail are you expecting @uhoh? The applications program were mostly proposals without all the workings designed. $\endgroup$ – GdD Oct 9 '18 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not expecting a specific level of detail @GdD, but even proposals will have the basic idea and some explanation of the feasibility & goals, and if there is any documentation at all it would be interesting to read. I'm really interested in seeing how engineers at the time (early/mid 1960's) envisioned operation of a space telescope in the command module; kind-of cramped don't you think? Developing photographic plates, etc. Where were they going to penetrate the hull with the optical path? Which direction would it point? Strictly solar only (as in the video) or thoughts about other targets? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 9 '18 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ You realize it did actually fly @uhoh? It was attached to Skylab as the Apollo Telescope Mount. $\endgroup$ – GdD Oct 9 '18 at 12:08

The Apollo Telescope Mount was originally going to be connected to the CSM, but later the plan was to have the telescope connected to a modified lunar module instead. Astronauts would have come on the CSM and docked to the telescope, then controlled it from consoles in the modified LEM ascent stage (the descent stage would have been replaced by the telescope). Various configurations for the control systems were investigated, the favored one was a one-man wrap-around setup as a 2 man system was too cramped for long duration missions. The book "Apollo: The Lost and Forgotten Missions" has a section with diagrams which I can't link to due to copyright, but the link should get you to the section.

I am having trouble confirming it, but if my memory is good on this the proposal with a 1 man LM/ATM configuration would have had a 2 man crew in total as a 3rd would have been redundant, it would have additional benefits of letting the crew carry more consumables and have more space for film canisters.

Most of the instruments recorded to film which was stored in canisters, which would have been retrieved during EVAs and stored in the CSM and brought back to Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ This is excellent, thank you for taking the time to track this down! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 9 '18 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @uhoh, I would also recommend the False Steps blog, which has a vast array on space missions that never happened. $\endgroup$ – GdD Oct 9 '18 at 15:11

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