Fearing that the Soviets were going to beat the United States to the moon, two engineers from Bell Aerosystems Company, John Cord and Leonard Seale, proposed a way to make sure America got there first. Their idea was to send an astronaut on a one-way mission to the moon. After all, it's a lot easier to send a man to the moon if you don't have to worry about bringing him back.
They presented their idea at the meeting of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences in Los Angeles and also published it in the Dec 1962 issue of Aerospace Engineering
Read the entire article (pdf)
Their plan was for NASA to first land a series of unmanned cargo vehicles on the moon that would contain all the necessities for a lunar base. An astronaut would then make the journey to the moon and, after landing, assemble the base. Every month NASA would send a new cargo vehicle to resupply the astronaut with essentials — food, water, and oxygen. This would continue until NASA figured out a way to bring him back.
NASA, perhaps sensing that the public would perceive a one-way mission as an admission of defeat rather than a sign of victory, ignored the proposal.
Base for a one-way lunar mission
Although NASA ignored Cord and Seale's plan, it caught the attention of science-fiction writer Hank Searls, serving as the inspiration for his 1964 novel, The Pilgrim Project
. Hollywood developed Searls' book into a 1968 movie, Countdown
, directed by Robert Altman and starring James Caan and Robert Duvall.
In both the book and movie, NASA succeeds in landing an astronaut on the moon. The astronaut then discovers that the Soviets got there first — but all died.