Made in 1966, this rarely seen documentary “Today, Tomorrow and Titan III” shows the U.S. Air Force and NASA’s activities and research. The Manned Orbiting Laboratory space station concept, put forward as part of an initiative to militarize space under the auspices of the USAF, is touched upon. Research efforts with lifting bodies (which might be used to resupply the MOL) including the M2-F1 and high speed aircraft including the X-15 rocket plane are shown at Edwards Air Force Base and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), originally referred to as the Manned Orbital Laboratory, was part of the United States Air Force’s manned spaceflight program, a successor to the cancelled Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar military reconnaissance space plane project. The project was developed from several early Air Force and NASA concepts of manned space stations to be used for reconnaissance purposes. MOL evolved into a single-use laboratory, with which crews would be launched on 40-day missions and return to Earth using a Gemini B spacecraft, derived from NASA’s Project Gemini.

The MOL program was announced to the public on 10 December 1963 as a manned platform to prove the utility of man in space for military missions. Astronauts selected for the program were later told of the reconnaissance mission for the program.[1] The contractor for the MOL was the Douglas Aircraft Company. The Gemini B was externally similar to NASA’s Gemini spacecraft, although it underwent several modifications, including the addition of a circular hatch through the heat shield, which allowed passage between the spacecraft and the laboratory.

MOL was cancelled in 1969, during the height of the Apollo program, when it was shown that unmanned reconnaissance satellites could achieve the same objectives much more cost-effectively. U.S. space station development was instead pursued with the civilian NASA Skylab (Apollo Applications Program) which flew in the mid-1970s.

The NASA M2-F1 was a lightweight, unpowered prototype aircraft, developed to flight test the wingless lifting body concept. It looked like a “flying bathtub,” and was designated the M2-F1, the “M” referring to “manned” and “F” referring to “flight” version. In 1962, NASA Dryden management approved a program to build a lightweight, unpowered lifting body prototype. It featured a plywood shell placed over a tubular steel frame crafted at Dryden. Construction was completed in 1963.

The Titan IIIA was a prototype rocket booster, which consisted of a standard Titan II rocket with a Transtage upper stage. The Titan IIIB with its different versions (23B, 24B, 33B, and 34B) had the Titan III core booster with an Agena D upper stage. This combination was used to launch the KH-8 GAMBIT series of intelligence-gathering satellites. They were all launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, due south over the Pacific into polar orbits. Their maximum payload mass was about 7,500 lb (3,000 kg).

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2K. For more information visit

Date: August 18, 2015

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