"Of all the things that man has made, none is so full of interest and charm, none possesses so distinct a life and character of its own, as a ship." - Henry Van Dyke
"There will certainly be no lack of human pioneers when we have mastered the art of flight...Let us only create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether, and there will be plenty of people unafraid of the empty wastes. In the meantime, we shall prepare, for the brave sky-traveler, maps of the celestial bodies- I shall do it for the moon, you Galileo, for Jupiter."
- From a letter to Galileo by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630 A.D.)
"She's sinking!" - Landon
OVERVIEW: A HISTORY OF THE LONG LOST ANSA SPACECRAFT "ICARUS"
The ANSA spacecraft "Icarus" first flew onto the silver screen and into the hearts and minds of fans around the world in 1968. It was the first representation of an interstellar mission mounted by the United States, an American flight to another star. The dart-like spacecraft, under the command of USAF Colonel George Taylor (played by Charlton Heston), carried four brave astronauts across the heavens at nearly the speed of light. During the journey, something went wrong and the ANSA spacecraft "Icarus", living up to its mythical name, fell from the sky, stricken and crippled, to splash down in an uncharted inland sea on a desolate planet in the year 3978 AD, two thousand and six years after it had departed Earth.
However, due to relativistic time dilation, the peculiar effect where the faster a vehicle travels approaching the speed of light the slower time moves for those aboard the vehicle, while the galaxy has aged over two thousand years, the crew has barely aged 18 months. It was reminiscent of a classic children's fairy tale; Rip Van Winkle. There were be allegory references to several fairy tales in the movie, as well as to then current politics, the state of society in America, and even racial issues. The four astronauts go to sleep for a long, long time and when they wake up, everything has changed. Nothing is as it was, and they are lost in a new world, a world not their own, they are lost in both time and space with no way back home.
The ANSA spacecraft originally carried a crew of four; Taylor, Dodge, Landon, and Stewart, kept safely in drug induced suspended animation as the vehicle hurtled through space and time. Stewart, the only female astronaut aboard (and the first representation of an American female astronaut in space ever) dies in her sleep when her suspended animation chamber malfunctons sometime during the long flight. Her mummified body is discovered by her three horrified crewmates only after they reach touchdown. The surviving crew of three male astronauts; Taylor, Dodge, and Landon, continue their mission of exploration, even as the body of their long dead crewmate and their mortally stricken spacecraft sinks forever beneath the blue waves of an unknown inland sea, effectively stranding them on an unknown world, 2006 years in their future. Our three intrepid explorers each met their own bitter poetic destiny, one by one, and in the end only Colonel George Taylor, commander of the forlorn mission, is left alive to make the most startling discovery of all; the fate of all humankind and the civilization that he once knew.
While the adventures of Taylor and his crew, and those who followed in their footsteps are well documented, the least documented aspect of their travels is their rather unique spacecraft. Fans of the "Planet of the Apes" movie series soon discovered that the mysterious spacecraft had its own destiny to keep, a destiny that would last as long as the popularity of the movies, and even many decades beyond.
The ANSA spacecraft proves that it is unsinkable as it makes a cameo appearance in the second movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in a slightly different form; that of a modified tail lander that crashes on dry land.
For the third movie, "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", we see a smaller, more compact ANSA spacecraft but the lines are unmistakably true to the original and the design is just as timeless. Scenes that were edited out of the third movie would have shown the three astronauts witness the destruction of the planet from space. Another script part that was never filmed would have shown the actual launch of the ship from surface to orbit followed by the subsequent destruction of the Earth, the navigation of the time warp, and the reentry back into Earth's past.
The mysterious and beautiful ANSA spacecraft bowed out silently for the fourth and fifth movies without any explanation other than the action was situated firmly on the Apes instead of any astronauts. Strangely, the ANSA spacecraft did not make an appearance in the animated television series "Return to the Planet of the Apes", instead being replaced in turn by a more 'traditional' space capsule reminiscent of the Mercury capsules of the early 1960's. Undaunted by three consecutive failures to appear, the mysterious ANSA spacecraft refused to die, and in one last fit of spite, it made a cameo appearance in the first episode, "Escape From Tomorrow", of the POTA television series, titled, strangely enough "Planet of the Apes".
This time, the ANSA spacecraft is the same one that we last saw in the third movie. In the opening scene of the TV series episode, "Escape From Tomorrow", this ANSA spacecraft crashes on land, killing one ANSANAUT and stranding two more ANSANAUTs in the far future. After this, the mysterious spacecraft fades into the mists and recollections of science fiction fans, never to be seen again...
The original studio model lies forgotten on a old movie props storage lot, rusting and weathered through disuse, abandoned like its movie counterparts.
The ANSA spacecraft, "Icarus", if we can truly call it by that name, is a spacecraft of many shapes and sizes, but only one timeless classic design that has weathered the passage of decades of pop culture without taking a single blemish. Information on this spacecraft is very rare and hard to track down and would have been lost forever if not for the tireless preservation effort of two intrepid fans; Larry Evans and Phil Broad. These two men alone are responsible for most of the pioneering work of researching this interesting spacecraft long ago, when the images and movies were still fresh, but this information was not available in a easily accessible form until the advent of the Internet.
For decades, there was no information on this vehicle other than speculation, and very little visual data. With the advent of the Internet, and the explosion of information, fans began to gather together. One fan, then another, then another, joining into groups, expressing interest in this often overlooked piece of science fiction movie prop history; the first representation of a manned interstellar mission launched by the United States at a time when the United States was intent on winning the Space Race. This ship represented the spirit of America, of what we could do if we all pulled together as one nation. It represented, above all other things, the true meaning of what it meant to be an American, that not only would we win the Space Race, but the Star Race as well. Sure, there were other missions, other science fiction shows that went to different stars, other worlds, but none of them were representative of the United States doing so, and that was a milestone for the day, a first, for it predated the actual American moon landing by more than a year.
One fan in particular, Larry Evans, decided that the mysterious spacecraft needed a proper name, since none was ever given in any of the movies. It was Larry who first gave the ANSA spacecraft the name of "Icarus", after the Greek myth, and it is that name which has struck with fans. In the decades since its introduction, the ANSA spacecraft has been the topic of much discussion and speculation, ranging from the physics based aspects of space traveling at nearly the speed of light, to time dilation, to what the inside of the spacecraft looked like, what the rest of the spacecraft looked like, and how did everything work?
The ANSA spacecraft is a very beautiful design, it is timeless, and romantic in the way that all military and space hardware ultimately is. A Sopwith Camel is just as beautiful today as it was when it was first introduced during World War I and although it can't hold a candle to something modern like a F-16 Fighting Falcon, the design is still timeless, of an era when combat and aerial warfare wasn't so 'push button', but rather where pilots relied on good eyesight, quick reflexes, and an instinct for survival in order to win. These traits carried over to the astronaut program as well. The "Icarus" was born of a similar era. We take for granted today everything about the space program. Shuttle launches are routine, satellites are everyday occurrences, and America is working toward building an international space station.
However, it didn't always used to be that way...
In 1968, no one had even gone to the moon yet. There was no space shuttle, and no space stations. It would be years before Skylab would be put into orbit, and years after that in which it would make its own fiery return to Earth alerting the public to the dangers of 'what goes up must come down'. The designs that set the pace of these races will always be timeless and romantic. The "Icarus" is all of these things in the way that the classic rocket ships and space capsules of the American and Russian Space Race will always be considered as such to be. The main strong point of the ANSA spacecraft, in my humble opinion, is that even today, the spacecraft looks to be a very viable design. The design of the ANSA spacecraft isn't too science fiction, it isn't too far out there not to be plausible. It was designed to follow the lines of what NASA was thinking in those days, and even today, the design is still 'classic' and perfectly feasible. In fact, it seemed to be, in the later movies, a reusable design, and that meant that it was cost effective like the space shuttle is today. The command capsules of the day were disposable, but the "Icarus" was cutting edge design and thinking, a reusable command capsule that could be bolted up to a variety of platforms. That line of reasoning showed a lot of creativity and foresight on the part of the designers that isn't often credited. Not even NASA was that forward thinking back in the day.
Since its bold introduction, the ANSA spacecraft has remained a spacecraft of mystery and beauty. Born of a time that witnessed both the height of the Cold War and the waxing nostalgia of the Space Race, the ANSA spacecraft, as portrayed on film, leaves much to the realm of those with a fertile imagination. Follow along now as I try to unravel some of the mystery that has surrounded this wonderful spacecraft for so long, a spacecraft that has never had the recognition that it so richly deserved, and as I present to you all the facts that I have and know about with regard to this wonderful spacecraft.
CHARIOTS OF THE GODS
Why did I want to build this website around a very small prop from a 1960's era sci-fi movie about time warped, stranded astronauts and horseback riding talking apes with rifles? Why give any attention to a spaceship that crashed and sank and did little more than get the astronauts into one hell of a predicament from which they never ultimately escaped? That's a pretty straight forward question, with a pretty straight forward answer; simply because it hadn't already been done.
I wanted to give credit where credit was
due. Long overdue. I wanted to give other fans and those who were just plain
curious the information that has been missing for these long decades now. I wanted
to build a site about the ANSA spacecraft, since there is so very little out there with
regard to the spaceship / starship shown in the "Planet of the Apes"
movies. Very little information. In fact, I can count the number of
websites on the internet dealing with the POTA spaceship on one hand minus a few fingers.
The number of sites with really good information is exactly two. This site is
one of them.
So, why give any time or attention to a spacecraft that acted as little more than a convenient prop to transport the actors into a bad situation?
"Abandon ship!" -Taylor
Because it wasn't just the spacecraft, it was the spirit behind the ship, it was the movement of the day that got that particular spacecraft to where it crash landed and sank, that moved man across the heavens, through time and space, normally realms reserved for God and His host alone, and it was a struggle that would be mimicked in real life, both in triumph and in tragedy. It was the spirit of the country at that time, something I think that we've definitely lost in the decades that followed, and that is perhaps, one of the saddest aspects of the current generation of Americans. What we, as Americans, have lost is the 'team' spirit to be first, as a nation, to be the best, to win the space race and anything else that came along. America was unstoppable and the world watched in awe. In the decades since, America has fallen from the first place position that it once held. America has lost the drive into space, America has lost the fire, and what a brilliant fire it was!
CHARIOTS OF FIRE
What drove the nation was an unquenchable fire that stirred the souls and hearts of young and old Americans alike. Today, NASA and the space race are just stuff that kids read about in history books or make fun of in movies. The 'us' spirit as become the 'me' spirit. Not many kids have the dream of flying through space anymore, the astronaut is no longer a 'cool' role model. That's sad, to see a great spirit, an unquenchable fire that once moved an entire nation to put two of its own citizens on a planet far, far away to have turned from a blow-torch hot flame to cold ashes. The slow death of a once wondrous and powerful dream ... A dream that exceeded all peoples of the world, that was in the hands of a few to achieve, and is now thought to be 'extraneous'.
But those days were something, when they were around, when Americans banded together instead of stood apart. And the one moment in time, that despite America and what may happen to it, will define for all time a turning point in the history of Mankind, of the whole human race, and Americans, great Americans, were the ones who were responsible for that momentous event. That moment came in July of 1969 with these words:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong, 1969
With those 10 simple yet elegant words, Human history, ALL Human history and even the history of the planet, was forever changed. It didn't matter if you were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or atheist, at that one moment in time, everyone was human, and a human had stepped beyond this world, and put their foot on the soil of another planet, and that made us all equal, like it or not. It made us all Human, regardless of our own differences or ideologies. The year was 1969, and the world sat poised on the edge of one of the greatest achievements, one of the greatest adventures in the history of mankind; America was about to win the Space Race, and an American was going to be the first human being to ever set foot on the Moon!
It was an exciting time, with heroism and heroic effort not seen since the time of Greek mythology. It was just a few short weeks before Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the surface of our Moon that I was born, June, 1969. It was an exciting time to be born and to grow up, full of hope and dreams.
After the first moon mission, there were several others, followed by Soyuz / Apollo link up, and the Skylab., During all of this time, the US went 'Ape' over a series of movies, a TV series, and a cartoon series based on Pierre Bouelle's novel from the late '50s (which was very different from the movie!) entitled, "Planet of the Apes". It was a series of movies that not only closely followed politics, but also the spirit of the time. Even today books are written on the movie documenting the comparison of culture in America to the way that the movie was portrayed!
That's one small step for childhood...
I was at an impressionable age, growing up watching reruns of the Planet of the Apes on the ABC Monday Night Movie, watching the Planet of the Apes TV Series (very short lived), and finally as a child, watching the animated "Planet of the Apes" cartoon series on Saturday morning. The stores had all the Planet of the Apes toys, and while I never really owned any of the toys or much cared for them (I was more into G.I. JOE(tm) and Big Jim(tm) at the time) I was fascinated by the talking monkeys and the post apocalyptic Earth setting with astronauts returning to find a dead world, smashed cities, being never able to return home again. The feeling that I got when Taylor found Stewart long dead in her hibernation chamber... The scene of the ANSA spacecraft sinking beneath the waves carrying Stewart's (the first American female astronaut portrayed on film) mummified body with it ...
"Going... going.... gone." -Landon
Landon: Well, where are we? Do you have any notions, Skipper?
Taylor: We're some 320 light years from Earth on an unnamed planet in orbit around a star in the constellation of Orion. Is that close enough for you?
Landon (looking up at sun): That star could be Bellatrix...
Dodge: It's too white for Bellatrix.
And so you have the beginnings of a great adventure (and it was grand, for its time!) The scene of the ANSA spacecraft sinking was equaled only by the scene of Taylor finding Dodge stuffed and on display in the museum, discovering Landon having undergone a primitive frontal lobotomy at the hands of ape veterinarians who experiment on people, and finally, putting all the pieces together at that climatic scene where Taylor stands in the shadow of the wrecked Statue of Liberty and knows that he's come ... home.
"You maniacs! You blew it all up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!" -Taylor.
DOING THE TIME WARP ... AGAIN
What kicked my interest off again was watching the movie, "Planet of the Apes" again on television. I admit, I hadn't seen the movie "Planet of the Apes" in a very long time, decades, and in fact, I had forgotten about it. Something that happens as you grow older, you forget what made your day as a child, what sparked your imagination, what set your soul on high to roam and explore to your brain's content. I had forgotten just why I liked these movies so much... And it wasn't until TNT aired "Christmas With The Apes" on Christmas Day, 1999, showing all five movies back to back, that I really sat down and watched the entire Planet of the Apes series, each one, again, and understood what an incredible movie series this was, and the fact that it was over 30 years old just made it more incredible that it still had an impact, and still had staying power with all the fans, both old and new alike.
Some of my memories of the show were just plain wrong, and others were just as razor sharp and on the money as they had ever been. I laughed at things I had forgotten about, awed at things that I had gotten wrong, and was simply amazed at, even after over two decades, there were still parts of the movie dialog that I could remember or recite. But what interested me the most, what had me sitting on the edge of my seat was the first five minutes of the movie Planet of the Apes, and that incredible dart-shaped spacecraft that had been lost to the mists of memory. I sat spellbound as the astronauts crashed again, and I relived a forgotten part of my childhood all over again. 25 years flashed through time at light speed in the space of five minutes.
I *had* to have that spacecraft as a model!
I had seen a model of the ANSA spacecraft for sale at www.monstersinmotion.com, but it was kind of expensive and didn't look to be that accurate of a model. Another smaller model, done by SKYHOOK MODELS, was a partially submerged ANSA spacecraft, very small, and more reasonable at 'just' $40 plus shipping. That still didn't capture my attention. I went on-line shortly after Christmas and started searching for the ANSA spacecraft, for any information I could find about this spacecraft that started it all for me.
Apparently, I was not alone...
I found Phil Broad's website, and just about all the information you could ever want on the subject of the dart shaped ANSA starship commanded by Col. George Taylor (Charlton Heston). Phil had built an impressive part of his site on the subject of the ship; and with information supplied by another fan, Larry Evans, together they had built the internet's first website dealing with the mysterious and beautiful ANSA spacecraft. Larry Evans had even named it ANSA spacecraft; "Icarus".
Before Phil, the spacecraft had very little data available on it.
Before Larry, it had no name.
Larry and Phil had picked up on the one major flaw in the design of the "Icarus", something that I had noticed long ago as well. We all noticed that the ANSA spacecraft was incomplete, and that there was apparently much more to the spacecraft than what we saw briefly in the movies and TV series, 'off camera' as one fan pointed out. This intrigued me, that maybe what we were seeing is not the whole ship, and all my questions as a kid came rushing back.
"How does it fly?"
"Where are the engines?"
"Where were the astronauts going?"
"How did the astronauts get there?"
Now, looking at the movies for the first time in a long time, I asked probably the most important question of all; "Where is the rest of the ANSA spacecraft and what does it look like?" Many people had speculations on what the 'whole' ANSA spacecraft looked like, each fan had a different interpretation of what ANSA and American interstellar space flight would look like. The technical part of what was deep inside of me, the logical part of my mind, that part which wanted to answer the hard questions about this mysterious spacecraft, just didn't see the ANSA spacecraft as a delta-wing glider or other similar concepts which I had found on the Internet. I tried to imagine this whole spacecraft crashing into the inland sea, and to imagine if there could be 'more' to the spacecraft than what we are seeing, if perhaps the drive section is submerged under the water, beneath the waterline. Watching the video again, it is evident that the "Icarus" is nothing more than a reentry / recovery capsule. There is nothing submerged' under the water, because it is almost crystal clear from the movies that what we saw bobbing in the water was all there was, that the ANSA spacecraft was not some form of starship, but rather little more than a space capsule. See the image below and look hard at the waterline... there just isn't a lot past the waterline. If there was, we would see a distorted image through the water. The ANSA spacecraft is white enough and the paint is bright enough that something that large would easily show up, at least for the first fifteen feet beneath the water, yet in the video, it is evident that all that returns to Earth of the ANSA spacecraft is the foremost part of a, albeit, much larger spacecraft / starship.
Look behind the submerged stripes and it is easy to see that there just isn't a whole lot more of the spacecraft underwater... Unfortunately, despite wishes to the contrary by fans throughout the decades, the "Icarus" is really nothing more than an elegantly shaped command and recovery capsule. There is no "engine" or "landing" section behind the ship and hidden underwater. With that in mind, a lot of questions are raised.
There just wasn't 'more' of the spacecraft under the water, what we saw was what we got, a capsule, a reentry module, an emergency life-boat fulfilling its final duty to save as many of the crew as possible and return them to a planet surface. Which meant, that if it was a capsule, and judging by the technology of the time (even given for near light travel), that more speculation and extrapolation was required. With that in mind, I decided to do what the original designer of the ANSA spacecraft did; I went with what NASA was using at the time and I decided to try to build a 'whole' ANSA spacecraft / interstellar vehicle.
SOME HARD QUESTIONS AND SOME NOT-SO-EASY ANSWERS
I've wanted to do a ANSA spacecraft model for a long time, decades in fact. Early attempts were along the lines of the ANSA spacecraft but, as a whole, were failures and none survive to this day, not even in my parts box. With the advent of the Internet, tracking down this mysterious spacecraft became a lot easier. I had noticed from the movies that there was no way that the ANSA spacecraft could maintain high relativistic flight (approaching the speed of light) because of the simple fact that it had no engines! And I'm a sufficiently advanced science fiction fan to know that only primitive engines look like engines, what with big exhaust nozzles spewing sheets of flames miles long behind the rapidly accelerating spacecraft. Truly advanced propulsion systems, the kind that will one day take us to other stars, and maybe even other galaxies, will be far removed from the inefficient Newtonian based reaction engines which consume massive quantities of fuel for very little return on performance. Given that to fly ATSOL, using science fiction, that we didn't need physically big engines or huge bell-shaped engine exhaust nozzles, there was still the point that there was a total absence of any kind of motive power in the design of the ANSA spacecraft; Newtonian reaction engines, nozzles, advanced space-warp field generators, or even a convenient place to hook on a big rubber band and a propeller.. It was evident from all the visual references that I looked at, from all the models available, that the ANSA spacecraft simply could not fly because it had no motive power built anywhere into the design. Coming to this understanding meant that the ANSA spacecraft in any of the movies, it's just a command capsule, like what returned to Earth with Neil Armstrong and his crew in '69. The ANSA spacecraft, as a command capsule, was part of a much larger vehicle, the engines, etc. that the ANSA spacecraft sat atop and what drove it through space at near the speed of light. Even as a child (early single digits of age), I often wondered where the huge engine nozzles were on the spaceship from Planet of the Apes... I mean, having grown up seeing Saturn 5 rockets blast off on a regular basis on TV, each with huge sheets of flame bellowing out from the massive bell-shaped engine nozzles, I looked at the ANSA spacecraft and thought...
HOW DOES IT FLY?
We, the viewer, never see the rest of this wonderful and often overlooked classic science fiction spacecraft and as such, are left solely to our own speculative and imaginative devices, left to infer and guess and make the best choices that we can given what limited data and information we have to work with. In order to make those choices, because ultimately, half the fun of playing with the ANSA spacecraft is trying to figure out how it works or did work or even didn't work, I present on this site all the data that I know exists on this mysterious vessel. I have my own vision of what the ANSA spacecraft looks like fully assembled. Your vision may differ, and if it does, that is OK, because currently there is NO official 'full version' which means that my vision could be as correct as Phil Broad's vision is as correct as John Keyes' version or even as correct as yours, the visitor! Until the original studio produces a 'master' model or shows complete sketches or photographs of the entire spacecraft in orbit or under power on its way to its mission, one guess is just as good as the other. And that is the real beauty of the ANSA spacecraft, a spacecraft of infinite speculation and classic design lines.
Phil Broad perhaps said it best: "The "Apes Ship" is far from minimal and it provides a vast fertile arena for exercising ones imagination, all you need to do is pay attention..."
So, you can see why fans and other interested people have tried so hard to work on the design of the ANSA spacecraft, to find out HOW it works, what is missing, and why it operated like it did. Its been one long, strange trip, lasting 30 something years for me alone.
The ANSA spacecraft is a very beautiful ship. I've talked to people via Email and ICQ who have told me that there is no other spacecraft that stirs their imaginations like the ANSA spacecraft, with those sweeping lines and mysterious nature. The ANSA spacecraft is somewhat of an enigma, seen only briefly, little information known about it, and then to vanish into the realm of speculation and hear-say for all time. Even AURORA, model king company of movie spaceships, failed to make an ANSA spacecraft model, thus probably dooming this beautiful spacecraft to obscurity for all time save for the effort of people like myself, Mark Longmire, Larry Evans, and Phil Broad.
Phil Broad once quoted that the "Icarus" was "... the first motion picture depiction of the first interstellar exploration missions to be mounted by the United States. What would be in real life undertakings of truly epic proportions, they sadly occupied only a few minutes of the films in which they were portrayed. Yet these brief appearances are actually stunning examples (for their day) of motion picture art direction and they were executed under the conditions of increasingly limited budgets. "
I'd like to present this project now, in honor of movies that shaped my childhood, that made me think and dream. I'd like to honor the very first starship I ever knew, long before I knew of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon, or the Battlestar Galactica, I knew the elegant dart-shaped ANSA spacecraft. This site is a tribute to a great science fiction spacecraft, often forgotten, always overlooked, but which has a very definite place in the history of science fiction. In honor of the ANSA spacecraft, of Colonel George Taylor, Landon, Stewart, Dodge, Brent, Skipper, Nova, and all the images that filled my childhood and rushed into my imagination, I present this website.
The Last Flight of the Icarus.
something about a voyage you are barely aware of while you are making it."
-H. M. Tomlinson