Book Review: The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook

The allure of toys like Lego lies with their nearly inexhaustible ways to combine elements into whatever the imagination desires. At one time, humanity’s voyage into space had a similar allure, particularly with the previous presidential mandate to land on the Moon. With this, imaginations went wild, as seen in Robert Godwin’s book, The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook – A Pictorial History of Lunar Vehicles. Showcased within are an amazing collection of ‘might-have-beens’ that epitomize the ingenuity and imagination of our species.

During the race to the moon, many people believed that landing a person was the first step to a great adventure. Their vision imagined a vibrant colony of humans living on the Moon who performed valuable daily tasks much like everyday life in a small town on Earth. They even hoped for further travels to Mars soon thereafter. In response to these visions, many industrial companies strove to identify, present and sell all sorts of aids and devices to realize this future. However, much guess work was involved. No one had been to the Moon, few support systems were finalized and space flight experience was seriously lacking on all fronts. Not surprisingly then, imaginations were at the forefront.

In memory of these heady times, Godwin’s scrapbook dusts off prints and specifications of many a proposed payload. Whether lunar direct or Earth orbit rendezvous, whether on the Saturn IC or its big brother the Nova, opportunities abounded. With these slim constraints, the hodgepodge of drawings, photographs and layouts clearly show the heady rush to adapt Earth culture to the Apollo program. Two main groups define the selections in the book. One group shows various types of lunar landers for the lunar orbit rendezvous. These structures could act as power supplies, base stations, research laboratories, or maintenance garages. The other group shows possible methods of mobility on the lunar surface. For example, a complete study, the MOBEV, ranged from a small hand controlled cart up to a three passenger manned mobile laboratory that could sustain the crew for 90days and over 3000 kilometres. But, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of what’s in the book. Many others, including an exoskeleton, Fleming’s lunar direct model and a single person rocket sled fill the pages. With these, this scrapbook provides a very clear idea of the range of thought and breadth of application planned for establishing people on the Moon.

However, this scrapbook contains much more than illustrations,. With either guess work or slim specifications, Godwin rebuilt many of the items using current 3-dimensional software drawings. Usually each item is shown as face-on, side and from overtop. Occasionally these software models get placed on a mock-up lunar surface, complete with a lunar-suited figurine. From these, it’s very easy for the reader to create a mental image of the configuration of the structure and its probable employment on the Moon. Also, by isolating vehicles or crafts on a pair of facing pages, Godwin’s effectively providing a synopsis of the item. Then by adding a few written paragraphs for each, he highlights any important distinctions and provides interesting numerical specifications and manufacturer notes. For example, a preliminary lunar lander employed a knotted rope for egress and ingress rather than a ladder, quite a novel idea. Thus, like a scrapbook, each pair of pages brings to life one particular special subject.

However, though a scrapbook has its fun elements, it also has drawbacks. In particular, there’s little cohesion or traceability. Though Godwin has tried to keep each item in a chronological order, inferences in one item refer to the design or specialisation of another. Thus, the reader will find it challenging to determine the evolutionary trend and will also find it difficult to follow threads. Thus calling this a scrapbook is very applicable.

And, though this scrapbook is great fun and will be greatly enjoyed by anyone who’s lived through the Apollo era, others may find it less enchanting. As mentioned, these designs were dropped as better ones were developed or functions not needed. Hence, many readers might find amusement but little practicality. Nevertheless, this scrapbook does capture the imagination of the designers and some very well thought out equipment. Thus, readers looking for a spark of imagination for their own design work would benefit in reading this book.

A surprising variety of responses are possible when asked for the design of a vehicle. Tracked, wheeled, exposed, and airborne, all are possible variants. So when NASA went looking for responses in the 1960s, there was an opportunity for imaginations to be freed. Many results are shown in Robert Godwin’s book, The Lunar Exploration Scrapbook – A Pictorial History of Lunar Vehicles. Who knows, maybe some of these will work themselves into NASA’s current plans to return to the Moon.

Read more reviews or purchase a copy online from