View Single Post
Old December 13th, 2011, 12:30 AM
Brainbin Brainbin is offline
Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: The British Empire
Posts: 1000 or more
Appendix B, Part II: Moonlight Madness

“Houston, this is Aquarius. We have landed.”
“Message received and understood,
Aquarius. Have there been any problems?”
“No, Houston, we haven’t had a problem here.”
“That’s a negative to problems?”
“Affirmative, Houston.”
“Good to hear. Say, Jim… would you say this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius?”
“That’s amazing, Gene… we can actually hear the hundred million groans coming from Earth all the way up here.”

- Jim Lovell
, on the lunar surface (aboard the Lunar Module Aquarius), and Gene Kranz, at Mission Control in Houston, Texas, injecting some levity into the Apollo 13 mission; April 16, 1970

The surge of popularity and public interest in the lunar landings – to the surprise of many – had legs beyond the fanfare of the initial moon shot in the summer of 1969. The men of Apollo 11 had safely returned home, having become worldwide heroes, and spent the rest of their lives in the shadow of their glorious achievement, for better and for worse.

In the space of less than a year, two more Apollo missions followed: Apollo 12 and Apollo 13. [1] Both missions were successful, as the first had been, and were widely viewed throughout the world. The American audience responded to the moon landings as they would major sporting events; they were appointment television, never to be missed, despite occurring at fairly regular intervals. Worldwide, the moon landings also continued to be popular; in the First World, they were framed as the ultimate technological triumph of capitalist society; in the Third World, they were more simply, and apolitically, viewed as a marvel unto themselves.

And in the Second World, the whole thing was viewed with defeated resignation. It had very much seemed that the Space Race had ended by default, rather than the by-the-nose victory everyone had expected some years earlier. After a long and painful series of setbacks, it would eventually become clear that the Soviet Union would never be able to follow the United States to the Moon. Though they had been able to end the nuclear monopoly in 1949, they could not end the lunar one.

President Hubert H. Humphrey embraced the lunar legacy, and his relentless promotion thereof may have been the biggest contributor to its enduring popularity, and how it came to define the early 1970s. He did his best to take care of his predecessor’s unpopular foreign entanglements in advance of the moon landing, to allow the public to focus their undivided attention on them. [2] Humphrey, for his part, emphasized his connection to President John F. Kennedy, benefactor of the Apollo program, and stressed his own continued support for lunar and space exploration. He was not the only individual to see political benefits from his connection to the space program; astronaut John Glenn, the first American in space, launched his own political career, after several false starts, and was elected as a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio in 1970. Glenn, running as a Democrat, narrowly defeated Republican Jim Rhodes, the sitting Governor of the state. [3]

The Apollo missions were scheduled to continue until 1974, ending with Apollo 20. An order had been placed for an additional set of Saturn V rockets, which would carry out the next phase of NASA plans. [4] Some of the more far-flung objectives, both literally and figuratively speaking – a permanent moon base, a manned mission to Mars – were considered overly ambitious; but it was felt that, by its very nature, the space program should always see its reach exceed its grasp. Its legitimacy as an integral organ of the United States government was confirmed when the position of Administrator of NASA was recognized as being of cabinet level-rank in 1970. [5]

The immense popularity of the space program with the general public, and particularly the younger generation, resulted in a phenomenon with many names: "Moonshot Lunacy" was a popular, pun-based title, with "adherents" becoming known as "Moonshot Lunatics". This term was then famously abbreviated to "Moonie Loonies". [6] Another popular term was "Spacemania", which was more vague but also more inclusive. Certainly it would more aptly describe the rise of science fiction in an outer space setting, not only in literature, but also on television and in the movies. [7] The established Star Trek, the most successful of these programs, saw a big boost during the height of this mania, landing in the Top 10 most-watched programs on the air in the 1969-70 season. Other science-fiction series were already in development at this time, thanks in part to Star Trek’s success, and would premiere before the end of 1970.

Despite the conflicting motives on the part of all involved; despite the great expense of the program, and resistance within certain camps to the continued high spending in regards to it; despite continued social turmoil throughout the era; despite the very raw wounds on the American consciousness from the very tumultuous decade past... despite all of these things, the space program was a great unifier: a pure, undiluted shot of optimism and an enduring celebration of those giant leaps for mankind.


[1] Obviously, ITTL, Apollo 13 goes off without a hitch. Why? Funding is higher, and given the even brighter spotlight on the Apollo program, scrutiny is a little tighter. Among the many things this butterflies away is the OTL 1995 film of the same name. Also, Ken Mattingly is orbiting the moon in the Command Module, as opposed to Jack Swigert, as the German measles scare is also butterflied away.

[2] Yes, the overseas conflict that dare not speak its name will see the winding down of direct U.S. involvement by mid-1969 ITTL. Remember, the attempted sabotage by Nixon’s team failed, and all sides continued on with the peace conference through the election. It was a top priority for both the outgoing Johnson administration and the incoming Humphrey administration.

[3] Glenn ran for his party’s nomination for this seat that year, but narrowly lost to Howard Metzenbaum; the two became lifelong rivals. IOTL, Glenn defeated him in a rematch for the state’s other seat in 1974, and went on to win the general election (Metzenbaum, meanwhile, would then win this seat in 1976). Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the ledger, Rhodes challenged for his party’s nomination but narrowly lost to political scion Robert Taft, Jr., who went on to win the seat IOTL; the Kent State Shootings (which obviously never happened ITTL) took place two days before the primary, which might have hampered Rhodes’ chances.

[4] For various reasons, funding for NASA is much higher ITTL. Throughout the early 1970s, it gradually declines and levels off at 2% of the total federal budget by 1975. IOTL, it was more of a plummet, leveling off at half that, 1%, within the same timeframe. As a concrete example of what this changes, the order for a second batch of Saturns was cancelled IOTL; here, it wasn't.

[5] This never happened IOTL.

[6] The term "Moonie Loonie" (or "Moony Loony"; obviously, there's no standardized spelling) comes from a TTL episode of "Laugh-In", during a parody "news" report on the "moonshot lunatics" - interrupted by Goldie Hawn bursting in and interjecting this phrase whenever someone mentions the phenomenon. She would then continue to randomly shout "Moonie Loonie" throughout the rest of the episode.

[7] Young people, influential celebrities, and intrepid journalists have to find something else to fixate on, given the lack of an overseas quagmire and, in particular, a certain politician who, IOTL, attracted their ire like a moth to a flame. The enduring success of the moon landings ITTL will draw them in for two reasons: they won't be ended prematurely, and they just happen to be in a feedback loop with a certain science-fiction series that's also entering the height of its popularity.


So now I've given you some insight into one of the dominant strands of popular culture in the early 1970s, and the mood of the people living in that era ITTL. Obviously, it's a far more optimistic and forward-looking society than the one we're used to, and will contrast immeasurably with the gloom, cynicism, and rage of OTL. This will obviously affect popular culture in ways beyond imagining... but that won't stop me from trying!
The Turtledove Award-Winning That Wacky Redhead: Big Dreams Have Big Consequences!

Find out more on the Alternate History Wiki or TV Tropes

Last edited by Brainbin; December 13th, 2011 at 03:00 AM..
Reply With Quote