Thanks to a very good idea from Brad in the comments (who fortunately had enough patience to put up with my bull-headedness long enough to talk a little sense into me), I think I’ve found a fix to the capsule size issue that should satisfy everyone. As brad points out, the cabin on the lunar lander doesn’t need anywhere near as much stuff as the return capsule itself needs. He suggested doing a lightweight cabin that was mostly just a pressure shell, and leave the crew capsule in orbit. I ran the numbers, available here, and found that if you assume a 1600lb cabin (split between 300lb for the astronauts themselves, 150 of life-support consumables, 300lb for spacesuits, 400lb for a rover, and 350lb for structures, electronics, solar panels, batteries, etc) on the lander, that it allows you to expand the 2-man capsule to 8400lb, which is almost where Gemini was in the 60s. With modern construction processes, it should be easy to get a bit more room and capability out of the design. In fact, it’s more weight than was speced for the GD Early Lunar Return capsule, which was based on an Apollo CM moldline….
So anyway, thanks to some good comments from Brad and others, I think the idea has been greatly approved. For those of you trying to give constructive criticism, keep it up. I may be bull-headed, but if you talk sense into me long enough, I’ll get it finally.
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