NASA cover artwork credit: Alberto Bertolin/Jacobs Technology Inc.

After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo, John Connolly (Editor) 2019; 277-pages, Free NASA PDF.

This NASA-published volume traces the history of human lunar lander concepts developed since Apollo’s Lunar Module (LM).

Credit NASA

Editor John Connolly has spent 33 years at NASA, primarily leading development of lunar surface systems, including landers. Given the details provided in this book, his bookshelves are surely bowed by the number of study volumes he has collected and gone through!

This notable volume tells the story of physics, technology, and the desire to return humans to the lunar surface through technical descriptions, imagery and looks at subsystems of more than 100 lunar lander concepts created by NASA and its contractors since the Apollo program. 

The concepts are grouped by the human exploration timelines that defined the post-Apollo period, starting post-Apollo and continuing through the Space Exploration Initiative and the Vision for Space Exploration, and concluding with the many lander designs created to support NASA’s Constellation program.

Readers will better appreciate the common “trades” that are explored in crewed landing systems, including propellant types, pressurized volumes, structural mass fractions, mass margins, crew size, and special accommodations for ergonomics and other human factors. 


“There is a reason why the Apollo LMs, and many of the subsequent lunar lander designs featured in this book, look the way they do – their shape and form is a response to the simple physics that governs the tasks they are asked to perform,” Connolly explains.

As this document was being compiled in 2019, NASA has once again begun planning a return to the Moon, and new lunar lander designs are being generated.

Compared to Apollo, Connolly notes, crews are projected to be larger and stay times longer.

“However, it is expected that the landers will look much like the designs in this document,” he adds, because lunar lander design is a response to the simple physics that governs the tasks they are asked to perform.

Lander Design Analysis Cycle-4
Credit: NASA

“Design is also a living thing. New crewed lander designs will continue to emerge up until the point that humans return to the Moon, and even beyond, Connolly writes. “New players from different countries and commercial providers will create new designs based on new technologies and new requirements.”

“Until some breakthrough technology or new physics principle is created, each lander will respond to the current physics of lunar landing,” Connolly explains in the concluding pages of the volume.

“There may come a time, generations from now, when future engineers are paging through a digital copy of this catalog and reflecting on the early work of lunar lander designers. “Those Apollo guys were really smart, given that they started with nothing as a reference. The Lunar Module – now THAT was a great lunar lander design.”

After LM – NASA Lunar Lander Concepts Beyond Apollo is free to the public and available for download at:

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