Updated: November 25, 2020
PLANET OF THE APES ICARUS SPACESHIP
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".