Would it have been possible to send a manned mission to Mars using Apollo technology?

To clarify, I am writing a science fiction story in which a manned Mars mission in 2025 discovers a previous manned mission to Mars sent in the 1990's using modified Apollo lunar technology. Even though it is science fiction I want my story to be as scientifically accurate as possible. For example I have researched methods of shielding from Solar and Cosmic radiation such missions would require and I have surmised that the 21st century mission uses Hydrogenated Boron Nitride Nano Tubes, whilst the earlier mission used a form of polyethylene shielding.

I realise the technology would have to be significantly modified, but would it have been feasible to send a manned mission to Mars using Apollo technology?

I realise it would probably be unfeasible that something like this could have been kept secret, but it is science fiction, this is hypothetical, that is a plot point I can work out.

• I'm not sure that it's on topic here (it is fairly broad, given the numbered questions), but if it gets closed here (or no answers), you may want to try Space Exploration – Kyle Kanos Nov 17 '16 at 22:06
• OK, I didn't know there was a page on space exploration. I figured it was a physics question, I wasn't sure about posting as a single question or a seperate question for each point (they are related). – JamieTheBastard Nov 17 '16 at 22:10
• worldbuilding.stackexchange.com might be an option as well. – BowlOfRed Nov 17 '16 at 22:30
• Some would argue that the SLS launch system and Orion capsule is Apollo technology. – garyp Nov 18 '16 at 0:51
• I'm not familiar with the SLS and the Orion capsule but I will check them out. – JamieTheBastard Nov 18 '16 at 1:18

Does the Saturn V booster rocket use a different propellant than the Command/Service module motor? What exactly were the propellants used?

The first stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle burned kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX) while the second and third stages burned liquid hydrogen and LOX.

The Service module engine burned hypergolic propellants, Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetroxide.

There is a well researched hard science fiction novel by Stephen Baxter, "Voyage", that is an alternate history in which Apollo type hardware was extended and used for a human landing on Mars.

• I edited it down to just one question. I wasn't aware of the Stephen Baxter novel, I will have to check it out, my story might be redundant. – JamieTheBastard Nov 17 '16 at 22:32
• A possible quick and ready way of dealing with intermittent charged particle induced X-rays is to have suits filled with lead shot. If the CME is coming the crew would don these heavy suits, each about $300$kg or so and they would wait out the storm. These might ameliorate the problem. A serious solution is to have a nuclear power plant that is used to generate a large magnetic field to steer charged particles away. That was beyond 1970 space technology. – Lawrence B. Crowell Nov 18 '16 at 0:23
• Cheers for the answers and comments, it's given me a bit to look into as alternatives. – JamieTheBastard Nov 18 '16 at 1:28

There was a proposal for a Saturn V based flyby mission past Venus. A version of the Skylab was proposed to flyby Venus with astronauts. A similar configuration might have been cobbled together for Mars. However, actually landing on Mars would have been a challenge way outside space technology at the time.

The big problem is radiation. A solar coronal mass ejection (CME) sends $1$KeV protons into space. At $1$KeV $(\gamma~-1) mc^2$ $\simeq~10^{-6}mc^2$, giving the Lorentz gamma factor $\gamma~=~1~+~10^{-6}$. With $\gamma^2~=~1/\sqrt{1~-~v^2/c^2}$ this means $v~\simeq~1.4\times 10^{-3}c$ This is about $420km/s$. There is no chance of out running this or even avoiding it with a Hohmann transfer orbit to either Mars or Venus. A charged particle from the CME impacts the material of the craft and emits X-ray by Bremsstralung radiation. This could be lethal, and over a two year mission the crew could be exposed to several of these radiation events.

The lunar module would not have been able to land on Mars. It was designed for the moon with $1/6$th the gravity of Earth and Mars has $.38$ Earth gravity. There is also the problem of atmosphere, so heat shields would be needed. Parachutes and other impliments would probably also be required and this really requires an entirely different landing machine than the Apollo LEM.

The Venus flyby never reached program design level. The risks and problems were too high. A similar Mars program would have been also risky.

• I've thought about the problem of Solar and Cosmic radiation, and real life research has furnished me with possible solutions to that. But looks like I need an alternate landing vehicle. – JamieTheBastard Nov 17 '16 at 22:48
• A possible quick and ready way of dealing with intermittent charged particle induced X-rays is to have suits filled with lead shot. If the CME is coming the crew would don these heavy suits, each about $300$kg or so and they would wait out the storm. These might ameliorate the problem. A serious solution is to have a nuclear power plant that is used to generate a large magnetic field to steer charged particles away. That was beyond 1970 space technology. – Lawrence B. Crowell – Lawrence B. Crowell Nov 18 '16 at 0:25
• How did they deal with the problem traveling to the moon and back? My understanding is that in Earth orbit you are protected by the Earth's magnetic field but once in space would they not have been vulnerable to solar/cosmic radiation. The lead suit idea seems a bit cumbersome, I was reading up on NASA's research into the problem of radiation shielding and the Hydrogenated Boron Nitride Nano Tubes sound like the most ideal solution in that they can be woven into a light weight fabric for space suits and incorporated into the structure of the ship. – JamieTheBastard Nov 18 '16 at 1:07
• According to what I have read hydrogen is an efficient shield against radiation and that boron is a good secondary absorber of radioactive particles. They also mention polyethylene as a form of shielding as it has a high level of hydrogen and is also being considered by NASA for possible future manned missions. As my original mission took place in the 90's using modifed Apollo tech, for my story purposes I am allowing that they used some form of the polyethylene shielding. – JamieTheBastard Nov 18 '16 at 1:13
• @JamieTheBastard "How did they deal with the problem traveling to the moon and back?" They were short missions and lucky. No CMEs from the sun erupted during the missions, and a week's worth of cosmic radiation is survivable. For a year-long mission, things get worse. – BowlOfRed Nov 18 '16 at 1:29